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2010 March 20 Saturday
Obama To Attack Iran?

Obama's not the big preemptive unilateral military force user unlike his Republican tough guy frat boy predecessor. Right? So then why is the US is building up for a preemptive attack on Iran's nuclear weapons development facilities?

The Sunday Herald can reveal that the US government signed a contract in January to transport 10 ammunition containers to the island. According to a cargo manifest from the US navy, this included 387 “Blu” bombs used for blasting hardened or underground structures.

Experts say that they are being put in place for an assault on Iran’s controversial nuclear facilities. There has long been speculation that the US military is preparing for such an attack, should diplomacy fail to persuade Iran not to make nuclear weapons.

You might think China would oppose this attack. But a preemptive attack against Iran isn't just to help Israel. The Persian Gulf Arab leaders don't want to see a nuclear Iran either. with Saudi Arabia now providing China with a quarter of Chinese oil imports Saudi desire to stop Iran might sway China to acquiesce.

Brad Bourland, a former State Department official who heads research at Jadwa Investment in Riyadh, said: “Saudi Arabia used to be very much an American story, but those days are gone forever. That’s just a reflection of a globalized world and the rise of Asia. They now see their relationship with China as very strategic, and very long term.”

Some energy and security experts have pointed out that the Saudi government is keen on displacing Iranian oil sales to China to persuade Beijing authorities to back tougher sanctions against Iran’s nuclear program, a position that has the support of the United States.

“We know the Saudis and others have delivered the message to the Chinese that instability in the gulf is not in their interest,” Douglas C. Hengel, the deputy assistant secretary for energy, sanctions and commodities at the State Department, said last week during a conference in Houston.

What are the Chinese thinking? Surely the Chinese do not want nuclear bombs contaminating oil fields. But are they worried about what Iran might do? The Chinese badly need oil imports. Suddenly they are faced with the same strategic concerns about Middle Eastern oil as the US has worried about for decades.

By Randall Parker    2010 March 20 08:44 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (11)
2006 June 22 Thursday
Clinton Officials Call For Preemptive Attack Against North Korea

Clinton Administration era secretary of defense William Perry and assistant secretary of defense Ashton Carter say attack and destroy North Korea's Taepodong missile which is getting prepped for a test launch.

Should the United States allow a country openly hostile to it and armed with nuclear weapons to perfect an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of delivering nuclear weapons to U.S. soil? We believe not. The Bush administration has unwisely ballyhooed the doctrine of "preemption," which all previous presidents have sustained as an option rather than a dogma. It has applied the doctrine to Iraq, where the intelligence pointed to a threat from weapons of mass destruction that was much smaller than the risk North Korea poses. (The actual threat from Saddam Hussein was, we now know, even smaller than believed at the time of the invasion.) But intervening before mortal threats to U.S. security can develop is surely a prudent policy.

Therefore, if North Korea persists in its launch preparations, the United States should immediately make clear its intention to strike and destroy the North Korean Taepodong missile before it can be launched. This could be accomplished, for example, by a cruise missile launched from a submarine carrying a high-explosive warhead. The blast would be similar to the one that killed terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq. But the effect on the Taepodong would be devastating. The multi-story, thin-skinned missile filled with high-energy fuel is itself explosive -- the U.S. airstrike would puncture the missile and probably cause it to explode. The carefully engineered test bed for North Korea's nascent nuclear missile force would be destroyed, and its attempt to retrogress to Cold War threats thwarted. There would be no damage to North Korea outside the immediate vicinity of the missile gantry.

I think the case for North Korea as a potential threat to the United States is and was much stronger than the case was for Iraq before the war. But Iraq is much closer to Israel and Saddam was seen by the neocons as an enemy of Israel. My guess is that Iran is at much greater risk of a strike by the Bush Administration than is North Korea.

The continuing Iraq Debacle is a distraction from the battle against Islamic terrorists. It is also a distraction from efforts to prevent nuclear proliferation.

By Randall Parker    2006 June 22 03:59 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (3)
2003 May 15 Thursday
Did Corrupt Officials Hide Lack Of WMD Program From Saddam?

Jim Lacey, who was embedded with the 101st Airborne Divsion for Time magazine in Iraq has advanced a novel theory about Iraq's Weapons Of Mass Destruction (WMD) programs: there was far less of a program than Saddam Hussein thought there was because corrupt officials hid the fact from him.

Saddam was unlikely to be able to tell the difference between nuclear-grade graphite and pencil lead. What are the chances that the uneducated dictator could tell a centrifuge from a cow-milking machine? By claiming that the program was disbursed at hundreds of different sites, it would ensure that Saddam was never able to visit more then a handful and therefore would not be able to uncover the fraud.

Is this plausible? How good was Saddam's ability to keep track of the weapons development efforts in his country? How many spies did he have in them? Could those spies effectively monitor the work? Was the work distributed to too many sites? Were his own sons part of a systematic deception to hide from Saddam just how little resources were really allocated to WMD development?

We are going to have to wait for a lot more officials to be captured and interrogated and a lot more evidence to be sorted thru before we have a clear picture of what was going on in Saddam's WMD development programs.

By Randall Parker    2003 May 15 04:51 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2003 March 07 Friday
Donald Rumsfeld On Force Reductions In South Korea

At the Pentagon Town Hall Meeting on March 6, 2003 US Secretary Of Defense Donald Rumsfeld made comments about a possible US force reduction or shift in South Korea.

We still have a lot of forces in Korea arranged very far forward, where it's intrusive in their lives, and where they really aren't very flexible or usable for other things. And here's South Korea with a GDP that's probably 25, 35 times North Korea's, and has all the capability in the world of providing the kind of up-front deterrent that is needed. And we of course have comparative advantages with respect to an air hub or a sea hub and reinforcement. So we are what the new president for Korea, for example, ran and asked that we look at how we might rebalance our relationship and our force structure. So we are -- General LaPorte is engaged in that process, and it's a consultative process with the South Korean government.

And I suspect that what we'll do is we'll end up making some adjustments there. Whether the forces would come home or whether they'd move farther south on the peninsula, or whether they would move to some neighboring area are the kinds of things that are being sorted out.

Both the Chinese and North Korean governments would love to see US forces gone from South Korea. That's certainly an argument against removing them. But in spite of that argument there are strong arguments to be made for a large US force reduction in South Korea. First of all, South Korea can afford to maintain a sufficient ground force to be able to win against North Korea in a ground war. South Korea has twice the population and a massively larger GDP than North Korea. Simply put, South Korea can afford to defend itself and ought to do so. At the same time, a reduction in US forces would eliminate a source of friction and motive for anti-American feeling in South Korea. Plus, heck, if they don't like us why should we do them the favor of defending them?

What South Korea really needs from the US is air power and the ability to enhance South Korean military power with US military technology. South Korea would also benefit from US help if the United States could manage to prevent the North Koreans from developing nuclear weapons. Though a lot of South Koreans are confused on that point.

What the US needs from the relationship is any assistance that South Korea could provide to help prevent North Korea from becoming a nuclear power and proliferator of nuclear weapons. But since South Korea is essentially being held hostage by North Korea's ability and threat to use conventional and chemical weapons to rapidly kill millions of South Koreans the South Korean government is unwilling to join in pressuring the North Korean regime.

Some critics of Bush Administration foreign policy hold that the Bushies have squandered options for containing North Korea. See, for instance, Martin Sieff's recent pair of articles analysing Bush Administration policy toward North Korea: Analysis: How far will North Korea go? and his second article Crisis in Korea: America's options. The problem with this sort of analysis is that it ignores the longer term trend of developments on the Korean peninsula and the wider world. The United States is faced with a change in the status quo that was begun by North Korea back in the 1990s. North Korea never stopped working on nuclear weapons development after the 1994 Agreed Framework between North Korea and the United States. The spread of weapons technology gave North Korea more regimes with which to cooperate on nuclear weapons development.

Regardless of whether South Korean President Kim Dae-jung had embarked on his "Sunshine" policy of detente with North Korea and regardless of what statements the Bush Administration could have made or not made about North Korea it was inevitable that the interests of United States and South Korea would diverge. North Korea's efforts to develop nuclear weapons were eventually going to advance far enough to pose a threat to the national security of the United States both directly thru North Korea's development of ICBMs and more worryingly thru its likely future willingness to sell nuclear materials and even completed nuclear bombs to other nations and extra-national groups.

The Bush Administration could have played its cards in ways that would cause it to have friendlier relations with South Korea at this point. But those friendlier relations would not have translated into a better ability to prevent North Korea from pursuing its ambitions to develop nuclear weapons. Reporters can find South Korean diplomats and high officials who are willing to blame the deterioration of relations between the US and South Korea on supposedly rash statements made by members of the Bush Administration. But the South Korean officials who point to these statements are rationalising and trying to distract attention away from the basic conflict of interest at the heart of the disagreements between the US and South Korea.

The United States is in a position where it can not pursue an end to the North Korean nuclear weapons development program without placing millions of South Koreans literally at risk of dying. The United States relationship with China is in even worse shape. China is not just unwilling to apply pressure to North Korea. China is willing to help North Korea pursue its nuclear ambitions so that North Korea can serve as a proxy for China in China's attempt to challenge US influence in East Asia. China's willingness to do this places US cities at future risk of radiological and nuclear terrorist attacks conducted by terrorist groups which may be able to get nuclear materials either from North Korea or from Middle Eastern governments that purchase materials and help from North Korea.

It is argued by Sieff and others that the US build-up for the attack on Iraq has given North Korea the opening to pursue an accelerated nuclear weapons development effort. But North Korea already has what it needs to pursue that effort: its ability to hold millions of South Korean lives hostage while China backs it. If the US was not getting ready to attack Iraq now what additional cards would the US have to play against North Korea? South Korea would still be unwilling to cooperate in a preemptive strike against North Korea. The reason for the South Korean reluctance is simple enough: The cost of such a strike might run into millions of South Korean lives if North Korea responded with massive artillery and missile attacks on Seoul and other populated South Korean areas.

The United States is unlikely to get South Korean agreement to try to carry out a preemptive strike against North Korea. South Korean agreement will never be forthcoming unless either the South Korean government comes to believe that an attack against it by North Korea is imminent or if the United States can demonstrate military technology that is capable of knocking out the bulk of North Korean missiles and artillery in a very short period of time (literally minutes).

Without active and willing Chinese cooperation it is not possible to apply enough pressure to North Korea to coerce its regime to abandon its WMD development efforts. At the same time, the South Korean hostages are going to find reason to disagree with any US hardline policy toward North Korea. The US has no good policy option to pursue with North Korea that has any certainty of working.

So what should the United States do about North Korea's nuclear weapons development program? The US has a few options:

  • Conduct a strike against North Korea's nuclear facilities without South Korean agreement. The US might want to withdraw all of its forces from South Korea before doing so as that might decrease the chances that North Korea would respond by attacking South Korea. One problem with this option is that the US might not know where all the North Korean nuclear development facilities are located.
  • Threaten China with trade sanctions if it does not cooperate in an attempt to take down the North Korean regime by cutting off all aid and trade with North Korea.
  • Break the North Korean regime's information monopoly over its own people. Reach the North Korean people with information that will encourage them to overthrow their government.
  • Develop weapons technologies that would allow a very rapid elimination of North Korea's artillery and missile launch capabilites. This writer does not know whether this option is technically feasible.

Diplomatic agreements can not stop nuclear proliferation. Dangerous regimes intent upon developing and spreading WMD technology can only be stopped by changing the nature of the regimes in question.

Update: Could the Bush Administration have done a better job in its handling of North Korea? If the Bush Administration has made any mistake in its handling of North Korea it is probably that it let the North Korean leadership know how much it disapproved of and saw a threat developing in North Korea. Certainly the perception of how the Bush Administration saw North Korea affected the decision making of Kim Jong-il and other top members of the North Korean leadership.

From the very start of its term the Bush Administration instead could have pretended that it did not see any problems with North Korea's behavior. Had the Bush Administration taken that tack the North Korean regime might not have decided as quickly to activate the Yongbyon facility. The US would still have faced a growing threat of nuclear proliferation from North Korea because of North Korea's uranium enrichment program. But if the Yongbyon facility had not been activated as soon then the US would have had more time in which to pursue strategies for dealing with the North Korean threat. For instance, there would have been more time in which to pursue an attempt to break the information monopoly of the North Korean regime in order to speed the regime's downfall.

Of course the North Korean regime might have responded to the attempt to break its isolation by doing the same speed-up of its nuclear program as it is doing now. Similarly, if the Bush Administration had started out at the very beginning of its term to lobby the Chinese leaders to apply pressure to the North Korean regime then it is possible that, again, the North Korean regime might have responded by accelerating its nuclear program.

An argument can be made that an open society's leaders should be honest with its own populace about how it views threats developing in other countries. The need for the populace of a democratic society to know may outweigh other considerations. The ability of the US leadership to build popular support for its foreign policies depends so heavily on communicating with the populace about how the leadership views emerging threats that it may have been necessary for the Bush Administration to adopt the public stance that it took toward North Korea.

One criticism which can probably be fairly levelled at current Bush Administration policy toward North Korea is that the United States does not appear to be making a very big attempt to reach the North Korean people with information about the rest of the world. It is possible that there are covert operations underway to do this that are on a much larger scale than I currently believe. But if there aren't then the Bush Administration is making a big mistake.

By Randall Parker    2003 March 07 01:34 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (11)
2003 March 05 Wednesday
Iran To Start Uranium Enrichment Facility

Iran is going to start its uranium enrichment facilty operating.

"Iran will start operating its nuclear facility in Isfahan early next (Iranian) year," Hassan Rohani, secretary-general of the National Supreme Security Council, was quoted as saying in several papers.

IAEA chief Mohammed ElBaradei says part of the facility is being built underground.

He said part of a larger unit still under construction was being built underground. Underground facilities are of particular concern to inspectors because they cannot easily be monitored from the air.

Why would a country with large amounts of cheaply extractable oil deposits want more expensive nuclear power plants?

The country's first nuclear power station built by Russia in the southern port of Bushehr is expected to be operational in mid-2004.

By Randall Parker    2003 March 05 12:00 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2003 February 21 Friday
Why North Korea Pursues WMD Development

In a June 2000 paper entitled "North Korea's Strategy" Stephen Bradner explains why North Korea develops missiles and weapons of mass destruction.

The Pyongyang regime appears to consider its WMD and long-range missiles as fundamental to survival and too important to give up. Four points would seem to be clear.

First, these capabilities enable the regime to bargain and blackmail for what it needs rather than having to beg.

Second, while WMD and missile programs are important in this regard, it would be a mistake to imagine that is all they are, and to underestimate the importance attached to the programs per se and the regime's determination to pursue them. Such programs do not spring into existence overnight. Recruitment of nuclear specialists began in the 1950s. North Korea began assigning specialists to Yongbyon in the 1960s.26 All of this occurred long before North Korea had cause to anticipate economic failure or the need for a negotiating "card" to cope with the consequences of such failure.

Third, WMD and long-range missiles appear integral to Kim Jong Il's notion of making North Korea a "great and powerful state." Simply, he thinks great powers have such capabilities while weak states do not. In this respect, he will almost certainly consider these capabilities central to his own historic mission and, therefore to his notion of his own identity. He and his regime have always been bent on achieving these capabilities. It will hardly be easy to force them to "revert" to a posture that strips them of these capabilities, a posture that has never been theirs.

Fourth, these capabilities should be seen against the background of what has been happening all across Asia, from Syria and Israel, to the subcontinent, to China, and to North Korea itself, as second- and third-tier states develop asymmetric counters to western conventional military superiority. All of this is cogently captured in Paul Bracken's Fire in the East, in which he argues that as we transition not into the post-cold war era but into the post-Vasco da Gama era, Asian states are for the first time in five hundred years developing capabilities that will enable them to strike back at western states which try to impose their will by state-of-the-art military technology.27 These new capabilities will enable North Korea, among others, to hit our bases in the Pacific and, ultimately to strike at the homeland, raising the costs and hazards of our interference to dictate outcomes of our choosing far from home. As Bracken points out, Asian states are pursuing these new weapons, especially enhanced missile range and accuracy, not just to create random mass destruction, but rather to exert leverage, by force and threats of force, toward specific political objectives. If one asks what Pyongyang's specific political objective is vis-à-vis the U.S., the answer is not long in coming. They have been telling us week in and week out for decades about the need to get USFK off the Korean peninsula.

North Korea's WMD development effort is not a recent response to its economic problems. North Korea's deteriorating economic condition and South Korea's growing economy together strengthen the motive for the North Korean regime to do WMD develpment. But the regime already had compelling reasons to do so.

Containment is not a viable long-term option for the US strategy toward North Korea because North Korean missile and WMD development programs will only make it an increasing threat both from a growing potential to launch direct WMD attacks on the US and its allies and also thru its ability to sell WMD technologies and even actual weapons to other governments.

US attempts to organize a total cut-off of aid to the North Korean regime may fail because China may be willing to continue to prop it up. If sufficient economic pressure can not be brought to bear due to Chinese reluctance then an alternative strategy becomes urgent. The best strategy is to develop ways to get information about the outside world into the hands of the North Korean people. The pursuit of this strategy should be pursued with enormous vigor. Methods should be developed to smuggle large quantities of books and small radios into North Korea. It is essential to break the isolation of the North Korean people.

Update: If you want to read more about the problem of North Korea read my Axis of Evil category archive.

By Randall Parker    2003 February 21 02:13 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (6)
2003 February 04 Tuesday
North Korea Working On Nukes In Late 1990s

North Korea did not decide to reactivate its nuclear weapons development program as a reaction to George W. Bush's labelling it a member of the Axis of Evil. North Korea was actively working on nuclear weapons during the hey day of the Clinton and Kim Dae Jung attempts to engage North Korea on friendly terms.

A recent study by the Congressional Research Service noted that "North Korea's secret uranium enrichment program appears to date from 1995 when North Korean and Pakistan reportedly agreed to trade North Korean Nodong missile technology for Pakistan uranium enrichment technology."

"The Clinton Administration reportedly learned of it in 1998 or 1999, and a Department of Energy report of 1999 cited evidence of the program," the study added.

Also, at the National Defense University, a 1999 study group chaired by Richard L. Armitage, now deputy secretary of state, and including Paul D. Wolfowitz, now deputy defense secretary, concluded that the 1994 agreement had frozen "only a portion of [North Korea's] nuclear program" and that Pyongyang was "seeking to develop a covert nuclear weapons program."

In spite of that 1999 Dept. of Energy report a CIA report released in August of 2000 entitled Unclassified Report to Congress on the Acquisition of Technology Relating to Weapons of Mass Destruction and Advanced Conventional Munitions, 1 July Through 31 December 1999 made mention of attempts by North Korea to acquire technology useful for its nuclear program. The CIA report did not make it clear whether these technologies were useful for civilian purposes only or also for weapons development purposes. The term "its nuclear program" isn't defined with sufficient precision.

P’yongyang continues to acquire raw materials from out-of-country entities to produce WMD and ballistic missiles. During the reporting period, there were increased reflections of North Korean procurement of raw materials and components for its ballistic missile programs from various foreign sources, especially through firms in China. North Korea produces and is capable of using a wide variety of chemical and possibly biological agents, as well as their delivery means.

During the second half of 1999, Pyongyang sought to procure technology worldwide that could have applications in its nuclear program, but we do not know of any procurement directly linked to the nuclear weapons program. We assess that North Korea has produced enough plutonium for at least one, and possibly two, nuclear weapons. The United States and North Korea are nearing completion on the joint project of canning spent fuel from the Yongbyon complex for long-term storage and ultimate shipment out of the North in accordance with the 1994 Agreed Framework. That reactor fuel contains enough plutonium for several more weapons.

P’yongyang continues to seek conventional weapons via the gray market. In 1999, for example, North Korea acquired MiG-21 fighter aircraft from Kazakhstan.

This is not really new news. Lots of press reports in the late 1990s were reporting evidence of North Korean nuclear weapons development efforts. You can read a large collection of excerpts from late 1990s news reports on North Korean weapons development efforts. For instance:

Toronto Sun 2/7/99 Eric Margolis ".This column has steadily warned for the last five years of the growing threat from North Korea. In mid-January, I reported North Korea was fast acquiring capability to deliver nuclear warheads to North America by means of a new, long-range, three-stage missile. Two weeks later, on Feb. 2, CIA Director George Tenet testified before Congress that North Korea was on the verge of producing long-range missiles that could "deliver large payloads to the continental United States." Tenet said, "I can hardly overstate my concern about North Korea," adding, "the situation there is more volatile and unpredictable." Amen. This column does not have the CIA's $26 billion annual intelligence budget, but it came to the same conclusion, only five years before Langley. Other U.S. intelligence sources confirm North Korea has resumed secret production of nuclear weapons, adding to the two or three devices it already has. It is also improving and expanding delivery systems for its extensive arsenal of chemical and biological weapons..Tenet's dramatic testimony confirms the total failure of President Bill Clinton's Korea policy. reports that Pakistan probably supplied North Korea with gas centrifuges for enriching uranium in the late 1990s.

The complex at Hagap was first identified in the press in 1998 citing a classified Defense Intelligence Agency report titled "Outyear Threat Report". The DIA was unable to identify the purpose of the Hagap facility but speculated that it could be used for nuclear production and/or storage. The facility, located three miles north of Hyangsan, P'yongan-Pukto Province, consists of three main areas. The operations area is said to have 30 buildings and 5 additional buildings that are under construction. The location is at the foot of the Myohyangsan mountains that has at least four tunnel entrances and 11 support buildings. Reports indicate that four tunnels connect to dozens of building. This facility is said to be unique as it is the only one of several potential nuclear facilities that has been built underground.

For a number of years, possibly back as far as 1999, there were reports that the US and the South Korean intelligence community had gotten indications that the DPRK was attempting to acquire equipment related to centrifuges, which could be used for uranium enrichment.

According to senior US officials, equipment Pakistan exported to North Korea may have included gas centrifuges used in creating weapons-grade uranium. The shipment took place as part of a barter deal between the two countries in the late 1990s. In return, North Korea provided Pakistan with medium-range ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons. Russia and China are also said to have supplied equipment for the North Korean secret nuclear weapons program. Pakistan's assistance to North Korea's covert nuclear weapons program may have continued through the summer of 2002. What was termed "highly suspicious shipping trade" indicated that Pakistan continued to trade nuclear technical knowledge, designs and possibly material in exchange for missile parts.

Some argue that if the US would just tone down its rhetoric and be willing to negotiate then North Korea could be convinced to stop developing nuclear weapons. The problem with that line of argument is that North Korea has probably been breaking that agreement since the day it was signed. The United States has never been successful it getting North Korea to entirely cease its efforts to develop nuclear weapons. Diplomacy with North Korea holds no solution. The only country the United States should be bargaining with over North Korea is China.

By Randall Parker    2003 February 04 12:33 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (1)
2003 January 29 Wednesday
Why Military Option Against North Korea Unattractive

A war against North Korea would cost tens of thousands of US casualties, an equal or greater number of South Korean military casualties, hundreds of thousands of South Korean civilian casualties, and months to fight. The US lacks a quick and efficient means to knock out the North Korean artillery pieces that are burrowed into caves. Those artillery pieces are within range of the densely populated northern suburbs of Seoul. The North Korean civilians would similarly suffer appalling losses as the fighting moved into North Korea. The military option for dealing with North Korea is quite unattractive.

In 1993, shortly before the last crisis triggered by North Korea's then-unfulfilled quest for a nuclear bomb, a classified Pentagon estimate said a conventional war with North Korea would require four months of "very high-intensity combat" by more than 600,000 South Korean troops and about half a million U.S. reinforcements to the regular contingent of 37,000 U.S. military personnel stationed in South Korea, or about half the total U.S. fighting force.

Since then, in some respects, the trends have only deteriorated, according to Army Col. Dean A. Nowowiejski, a federal executive fellow at the Brookings Institution who served as a regional war planner in South Korea from 1995 to 1998. North Korea has been moving more and more troops and long-range artillery, with ever greater fortification, closer to the Demilitarized Zone.

Bribery of the entire regime is not going to work because even if North Korea would be willing to accept a deal it will not accept the kinds of terms that would make verification possible. That leaves sanctions. But its doubtful that China will go along with a sanctions regime that is strong enough to bring about the downfall of the North Korean regime.

Doing nothing is not a wise option. The North Korean regime has demonstrated its willingness to sell any weapons it can build to any other regime that has the money to pay for them. It is realistic to expect they will be willing to sell nuclear weapons once they have made enough for their own purposes. Then we will face a Nuclear KMart selling nuclear weapons to all comers.

Faced with options that are either unattractive or unworkable we have to ask if there are any other possibilities. One interesting question is whether there is any chance of an internal overthrow of the North Korean regime. If the North Koreans realised just how much worse off they are than their South Korean cousins they might be more motivated to overthrow their government. But the North Koreans are probably the most isolated population in the world. Any reduction in that isolation would tend to make the North Koreans see just how much better off they could be if their government was removed. I've previously suggested that a much bigger effort should be made to reach their populace with, for instance, sea drops of floating packages that contain extremely small radios that could run off of sunlight or mechanical winding. Still, even populations suffering under terrible regimes who are aware of the conditions outside their countries rarely manage to rise up and overthrow their governments. Successful popular revolutions are rare even under conditions of terrible suffering.

On the Winds of Change blog Trent Telenko (whose posts I generally enjoy reading btw) has recently argued that corruption could bring down the North Korean regime.

n North Korea, a much larger standing army was required earlier in the history of the communist state. This resulted in the Army filling many of the "ecological niches" in regime politics that in other communist states were held by the Party and the secret police/forced labor camps. The end result was corrupt regional power groupings centered on the various Army Corps. These military leaders are North Korea's "Tony Sopranos" and like their TV name sake, they chose a weak leader they could dominate, Kim Jong Il.

Once these North Korean "Tony Sopranos" got in the habit of disobedience for the sake of corruption to line their pockets, they became "a little bit pregnant" in the disobedience department regarding other things, hopefully including suicidal orders to bombard Seoul. This is why I feel there is little chance of that.

I find this argument to be Panglossian. Yes, it sure will be great if corruption in North Korea eventually bring downs the North Korean regime. But historically regime decay has taken decades or even centuries. The Soviet Union collapsed but its notable that it was the oldest communist regime when it finally fell apart. By the end of the Soviet era the party apparatchiks had lost their fervor for the system. That loss of fervor in the USSR was caused in part because successive generations of leaders promoted fawning deputies who had less doctrinaire enthusiasm than their bosses. An essential element in the regime decay of the Soviet Union was the passage of time that allowed successive generations of leadership to rise up, each less fervent about communism than the generation before it.

Lets look at some contrary examples. Fidel Castro, running a much newer communist regime, still rules in Cuba. Also, the Chinese regime, about the same age as the North Korean regime and both of a few decades more recent vintage than the Soviet Union, has managed to morph itself from a totally communist system to a sort of state crony capitalistic system without losing its control of China. It is possible that the North Korean regime could follow the Chinese example and hang on for decades before an internal revolt brings it down.

Is there anything that can be done about the nature of North Korean regime? It is possible that the spread of corruption in North Korea could be accelerated. The intelligence agencies of the United States and South Korea should look for ways to arrange questionable business deals for North Korean military officers. The more North Koreans that have foreign bank accounts and secret corrupt business deals with Western businesses that they need to hide from their government then the more pressure there will be for them to operate in ways that undermine the authority of the North Korean central government. Still, I'm not optimistic that this sort of approach will bring down the North Korean regime soon enough to prevent it from playing the role of Nuclear KMart before it collapses.

We still need a better solution to the threat posed by North Korea.

By Randall Parker    2003 January 29 02:52 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (14)
2003 January 19 Sunday
The Iraq Attack Should Not Be Delayed

There is an argument being made now by Hans Blix and all the usual suspects for letting the UN weapons inspections run on for months until more hotter "smoking gun" evidence is found against Saddam. The argument is not convincing for a number of reasons. Here are some reasons for attacking sooner rather than later:

  • North Korea is using our preoccupation with Iraq to embark on a threatening and dangerous course of action. The longer the Iraq issue hangs in the balance the longer the US have fewer resources to bring to bear on the North Korean threat.
  • Iraq's WMD programs are still on-going. Delay allows him time to make more WMD to use against invading troops.
  • Pressures will build in the Middle East against an attack the longer we wait
  • Inspectors can not find all the weapons and weapons labs. Only an invasion can disarm Saddam. He has already demonstrated an unwillingness to voluntarily give up his WMD capability.
  • An invasion that starts in the spring will put allied troops at a huge disadvantage against Saddam's biological and chemical weapons because the protective suits for the soldiers are too hot to use in weather that is the least bit warm. This was dramatically shown during a Pentagon press conference when one of the soldiers wearing the protective clothing fainted from the heat build-up the protective clothing causes.
  • The invasion of Iraq will be an intelligence bonanza in notable ways. The identities of most of Iraq's sources of technology for WMD development will be discovered. The types of technology discovered and the origins and methods of acquisition (e.g. names of brokers and smugglers) will point to where and how other regimes are acquiring the same kinds of technology. Also, Iraqi contacts with and assistance to assorted terrorist groups will be discovered and the details will be helpful in fighting those terrorist groups.
  • Firm control of Iraq would put the US into a stronger position from which to pressure Saudi Arabia on issues relating to terrorism. We wouldn't need Saudi bases. We wouldn't need to defend Saudi Arabia from Iraq. We wouldn't need Saudi oil.

Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution lays out arguments against delay in the Financial Times of London.

Some will argue that inspections are working. But disarmament is the goal, and it is not happening. Iraq has failed to account for large quantities of precursor chemicals, biological growth media and other dangerous technologies that we know it imported or produced at one time. This is not a US conclusion; it is a UN conclusion based on inspections in the 1990s as well as Iraq's seriously incomplete weapons declaration of last December 7. The US has done a poor job of reminding the international community about what we know, and how we know it, and must radically improve its diplomacy to develop a strong coalition for war in the coming weeks.

The Financial Times also reports on Turkey's reluctance to allow US troops to attack Iraq from Turkey.

Turkey's stated intention of giving "limited" support to any US-led war on Iraq means restricting the number of troops that Washington could deploy in a second front to overthrow Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi leader, officials and analysts said at the weekend.

If the United States had attacked Iraq last winter while the less Islamist government was still in power in Turkey it is very likely that the US could have struck a better deal with Turkey over Iraq. This demonstrates the danger of waiting: more new things can go wrong. Can we count on continued political support from Kuwait or Qatar if we delay for most of 2003? Delay gives domestic opponents in each Middle Eastern supporting country time to organize opposition and use various means (possibly including terrorism) to pressure their governments. The regional media are beating the drums against war. Also, there are signs that Jordan's King Abdullah may be backing out of allowing Jordan to be used as a jumping off point into Iraq..

Jordanian’s monarch Abdullah II has developed cold feet on his armed forces’ role in the US campaign against Iraq, a mere two weeks after Turkey held back permission for US forces to use its bases as staging posts for its invasion of Iraq from the north (as first revealed in DEBKA-Net-Weekly on Jan. 10) – halting the transfer to Turkish bases of American armored divisions, warplanes and naval units. Abdullah followed suit by backtracking on his previous consent for additional US forces to ship out to Jordan to build up the invasion force on the Western sector.

The United States does not have an infinite amount of military or diplomatic resources. The US needs to invade Iraq and get it over with so that attention can be shifted toward other pressing matters. Also, an invasion of Iraq should result in an intelligence bonanza as Iraqi intelligence agents with links to regional terrorist groups are rounded up and interrogated.

By the way, the need to attack simultaneously into all of Iraq's regions at the outset is illustrated by a map of Iraqi missile ranges from three different launching points.

By Randall Parker    2003 January 19 03:13 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (2)
2003 January 13 Monday
Turkey Being Tempted By Iran, Saudis, Others?

Debka says Turkey is shopping around for a better deal on Iraq's fate from other countries.

DEBKAfile’s sources in the Persian Gulf reveal that the question the Turkish prime minister privately posed Arab leaders, including Saddam Hussein, was this: Was Turkey’s unwavering resistance to Washington’s demands worth a comparable level of aid to that pledged by the US for taking part in the war, namely $4-6 billion? The Turkish prime minister topped his question up by asking for a further $4-5 billion, to be allocated over the next two to three years.

According to our Gulf sources, Saudi Arabia and Iran agreed in principle to put up or guarantee the money. Saddam’s reply is unknown.

Will Turkey turn down the US request for use of Turkish bases in an attack on Iraq? Its possible. But if Turkey does so and the US goes thru with the attack anyhow then Turkey will be left with no US aid. Will the Iranians and Saudis still give Turkey aid to make up for it even if the Turkish refusal to help the US doesn't prevent the US from removing Saddam from power? After such an attack the US would make sure that Turkey had no influence in northern Iraq and might go thru with creating a highly autonomous Kurdish state loosely confederated with the Iraqi central government in Baghdad. The US can play hardball during negotiations with the Turks by threatening to do that.

Consider the larger context. Debka's been claiming for a few months now that hundreds of Iraqi nuclear scientists are at work in an underground Libyan complex at Kufra Oasis. Debka also claims that North Korean nuclear weapons development equipment has been shipped to Iran where it is making enriched materials for nuclear weapons manufacture for Iran and North Korea. Are these rumours plausible? Well, more mainstream sources are reporting that Pakistan and North Korea have cooperated in nuclear weapons development. The Washington Post reported in November 2002 that North Korea and Pakistan were doing nuclear technology exchanges as recently as the summer of 2002.

While the administration has taken a hard line against North Korea, demanding that it verify it has dismantled its efforts to enrich uranium before U.S. officials engage in further discussions with the communist state, it has taken a much softer tack against Pakistan. Publicly, officials have suggested that if Pakistan, a key ally in the war against terrorism, had provided help to North Korea in the past, it changed its behavior after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in New York and Washington.

But in reality, U.S. officials say, the administration believes Pakistan continued to trade nuclear technical knowledge, designs and possibly material in exchange for missile parts up until this summer, when the administration concluded North Korea was secretly trying to construct a facility to enrich uranium for a bomb. Administration officials would not discuss the extent of the evidence, but they said it involves highly suspicious shipping trade.

Also, Russia of course has been selling nuclear technology to Iran and Iran can afford to pay because it produces a lot of oil. In turn that means Iran has additional technology to use to trade with other countries which are also pursuing nuclear weapons development. The countries that are trying to develop WMD have plenty of incentives to cooperate with each other to trade technology and materials.. At the same time, they have incentives to try to protect each other from US reprisals. Iran, Saudi Arabia, and other regimes have motives to offer Turkey money to try to protect Iraq from a US attack.

Another piece of context is the latest Unclassified Report to Congress on the Acquisition of Technology Relating to Weapons of Mass Destruction and Advanced Conventional Munitions, 1 July Through 31 December 2001. See, for instance, the Iran section of that report.

China is completing assistance on two Iranian nuclear projects: a small research reactor and a zirconium production facility at Esfahan that will enable Iran to produce cladding for reactor fuel.[1] As a party to the NPT, Iran is required to accept IAEA safeguards on its nuclear material. The IAEA's Additional Protocol requires states to declare production of zirconium fuel cladding and gives the IAEA the right of access to resolve questions or inconsistencies related to the declarations, but Iran has made no moves to bring the Additional Protocol into force. Zirconium production, other than production of fuel cladding, is not subject to declaration or inspection.

Ballistic missile–related cooperation from entities in the former Soviet Union, North Korea, and China over the years has helped Iran move toward its goal of becoming self-sufficient in the production of ballistic missiles. Such assistance during the reporting period has included equipment, technology, and expertise. Iran, already producing Scud short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs), is in the late stages of developing the Shahab-3 medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM). In addition, Iran publicly has acknowledged the development of follow-on versions of the Shahab-3. It originally said that another version, the Shahab-4, is a more capable ballistic missile than its predecessor but later characterized it as solely a space launch vehicle with no military applications. Iran's Defense Minister has also publicly mentioned a "Shahab-5." Such statements strongly suggest that Tehran intends to develop a longer-range ballistic missile capability.

China does not want to see the North Korean regime fall. China doesn't see North Korean nuclear missiles as a threat to China. At the same time, China is helping some of the same regimes do nuclear proliferation that North Korea is helping. There are more connections. Saudi Arabia is rumoured to have funded Pakistan's nuclear weapons development program. Jim Hoagland thinks Pakistan might be willing to sell nukes to Saudi Arabia.

A bunch of regimes are trying to develop weapons of mass destruction so that they can be free of US pressure and so that they can then in turn pursue their own strategies to apply pressure for their own ends. Given enough regimes in possession of nuclear weapons and with some of those regimes willing to sell nuclear technology and perhaps even nuclear weapons the ability to trace the clandestine movement of nuclear weapons would become impossible. The ability to even identify the origin of a nuclear weapon used against a Western city would become highly doubtful.

The Trends section of the latest CIA WMD proliferation report summarizes all the ominous trends that are causing the accelerating failure of efforts to block WMD proliferation. (my emphases added)

Some key WMD and missile programs are becoming more advanced and effective as they mature and as countries of concern become more aggressive in pursuing a range of technologies.

Key WMD proliferators are taking steps toward becoming more self-sufficient. They are better able to shield their programs against interdiction and disruption. To this end, they are seeking greater indigenous capabilities, including more advanced production technologies. Such domestic capabilities may not always be a good substitute for foreign imports, but in many cases they may prove to be adequate.

Furthermore, many WMD and missile proliferators are becoming more adept at denial and deception efforts, including hiding transactions and using dual-use technology and underground facilities in indigenous developments. For example, they are pursuing dual-use materials and technologies with WMD as well as legitimate applications that can be incorporated into commercial facilities and converted to WMD uses fairly quickly.

Under economic pressure, the need for lucrative foreign sales is a strong incentive to supplying entities, particularly in the case of dual-use items and technology. Weak export-control enforcement in some countries such as Russia and China encourages this trend. Furthermore, some traditional recipients of WMD and missile-related technology, particularly maturing state-sponsored programs, are beginning to supply technology and expertise to other proliferators. Such "secondary proliferators" as India, Iran, North Korea, and Pakistan are not members of control regimes like the Nuclear Suppliers Group, Australia Group, and Missile Technology Control Regime and do not adhere to their export constraints.

Nuclear, chemical, biological, and ballistic missile-applicable technology and expertise continues to gradually disperse worldwide. Nuclear fuel-cycle and weapons-related technologies have spread to the point that from a technical standpoint, additional proliferators may be able to produce sufficient fissile material for a weapon and to develop the capability to weaponize it. On the other hand, important political disincentives to nuclear weapon development will remain in place for most countries. As developing countries expand their chemical industries into pesticide production, they also are advancing toward at least latent chemical warfare capability. Likewise, additional nonstate actors are becoming more interested in the potential of using biological warfare as a relatively inexpensive way to inflict serious damage. The proliferation of increasingly capable ballistic missile designs and technology poses the threat of more countries of concern eventually breaching the 1,000-km range of SRBMs and posing greater risks to regional stability.

Finally, most countries of proliferation concern are continuing efforts to develop indigenous designs for advanced conventional weapons and to expand production capabilities, although most of these programs usually rely heavily on foreign technical assistance. Many of these countries -- unable to obtain newer or more advanced arms -- are pursuing upgrade programs for existing inventories. In addition, some of the recipient countries, such as Iran, have in turn become suppliers to those countries and entities that are unable to purchase weapons elsewhere.

All of these events and trends are driving the debate in Washington DC about nuclear proliferation. In the face of copious quantities of evidence to the contrary some such as Jon Wolfsthal of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace still think that traditional methods of trying to prevent WMD proliferation can work. However, the other school of thought argues that only military force can prevent any number of additional monsters from escaping from Pandora's Box.

According to Wolfsthal, two schools of thought currently dominate the Washington discussion of weapons proliferation.

The first says that non-proliferation efforts have failed and the number of states developing non-conventional weapons is out of control. Proponents of this view argue that the best hope is to try and eliminate dangerous regimes that are pursuing WMD, possibly through military force.

The more traditional view, held by Wolfsthal and others, is that while non-proliferation efforts are not perfect, they have succeeded in many cases.

The spread of knowledge and dual use technologies combined with greater coordination between WMD developers and the financial wherewithal provided by oil money are combining to make the traditional tools for WMD proliferation control woefully inadequate. If Gulf states really are trying to buy Turkey's outright opposition to a US attack on Iraq then that is another demonstration of just how high the stakes have gotten. There is no way for the United States to defend itself to prevent terrorist WMD attacks if WMD become easily available to terrorist groups. Can we trust Iran, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and other countries to never turn over WMD to terrorist groups? Can we trust that no internal faction within one of those countries won't just steal WMD and hand them over to terrorist groups? Can we trust that North Korea won't become Nuclear KMark selling nuclear weapons to the highest bidder or that Pakistan will not sell nuclear weapons to Saudi Arabia? I do not believe our cities will be safe if WMD proliferation continues and I do not believe that anything short of military force can prevent the spread of WMD. Technological trends and political trends (eg the collapse of the Soviet Union) are shifting the playing field in favor of the proliferators. More powerful counterbalancing tools are needed.

By Randall Parker    2003 January 13 08:54 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2003 January 09 Thursday
International Law And Agreements Can Not Protect Us

Writing in the Times of London Philip Bobbitt makes an argument for the necessity of attacking Iraq.

The matter of Iraqi WMD cannot be detached from the development of non-state, or even virtual state, actors like al-Qaeda, which are well-financed and global, but are of no fixed abode and therefore immune to threats of retaliation. Whether there has been any direct collaboration between al-Qaeda and Saddam, the very existence of a global terrorist network makes Iraq’s nuclear and WMD capacity so much more threatening than that of other tyrannous regimes in previous eras.

Saddam would clearly be capable of using these non-state actors as unidentifiable agents to attack the US or the UK with weapons he would not dare use against us directly. But surely, some argue, we would know he was behind such an attack and would retaliate? Perhaps. But many doubt whether we know all the actors responsible for Lockerbie; we still do not know the authors of the anthrax attacks on Washington.

The widening availability of technology that makes it ever more easy to develop weapons of mass destruction obsolesces the existing body of international law governing the use of force by states. Attacks by small groups become steadily more lethal and also less traceable. Bobbitt seems to understand this. But he doesn't seem to understand the limits of what can be accomplished by an agreement between nations when at least one party of the agreement intends to violate it.

North Korea is now demanding a non-aggression agreement from the US as a condition of giving up its WMD. Let’s give it to them.

There is no way to verify the North Korean regime's compliance with such an agreement. The regime will try to violate any agreement that it enters into. Intentions matter. Any regime with sufficient intellectual and material resources that intends to develop WMD will eventually succeed in doing so. An incredibly closed society such as North Korea is extremely difficult to monitor for compliance with agreements. As long as North Korea is governed by a leadership that intends to develop WMD the very existence of the regime constitutes a threat to the United States and to a number of other countries.

What is at stake here is whether North Korea will succeed in becoming Nuclear KMart to the rogue states and terrorist groups of the world. The North Korean regime has already demonstrated a willingness to tolerate mass starvation of its population in order to stay in power. It has already become a supplier of missiles and weapons technology to other regimes. It has no internal moral restraints against selling weapons of mass destruction to the highest bidder. If the North Korean regime remains in power it will develop greater abilities to manufacture and deliver WMD and it will also grow in its role as a WMD proliferator.

By Randall Parker    2003 January 09 11:29 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
North Korea Diplomatic Game and WMD Proliferation

John O'Sullvan looks at the political crisis over North Korea from the standpoint the various players and also examines lessons that the crisis teaches.

Take Iraq first. Iraq can lose because it does not yet possess nuclear weapons and a credible means of delivering them--and it can therefore be attacked and conquered by a greater power. It probably will lose because North Korea has just demonstrated two things:

1. The possession of nuclear weapons can give a small backward nation the power to blackmail the entire world into giving it various forms of foreign aid.

2. Arms control treaties are mere paper unless there is a body with the power to enforce them, or, less securely, unless the states that sign them are trustworthy partners, which in turn means democracies with public opinion to consider.

One error in this article is that O'Sullivan puts China in a list of local US allies for dealing with North Korea. I do not think the Chinese leaders see themselves as such.

Martin Sieff's analysis of China's view of North Korea is much closer to my own. China sees a collapse of the North Korean regime as a threat to the stability of the Chinese regime.

But there are other, even more pressing reasons why China is determined to prop up North Korea. Pyongyang has proved an invaluable buffer to protect Mainland China from the contagion of democracy and a free press in neighboring South Korea and China. And since the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests and massacre and the collapse of the Soviet Union that started so soon afterward, China's communist leaders have been united in a single fear. They believe that unleashing the same potent freedoms in their country that the last Soviet president, Mikhail Gorbachev, did would lead to the same result -- national disintegration and appalling mass misery.

China's leaders do not fear the North Korean government will attack China with nuclear weapons. At the same time, China sees the survival of the North Korean regime as valuable for maintaining the stability of their own political system. The Chinese leaders greatly fear instability. The incentives in the minds of the Chinese leaders point toward China's resisting US efforts to apply diplomatic pressures or sanctions to North Korea. China is a permanent voting member on the UN Security Council with veto power. The idea of China approving a UN Security Council sanctions resolution against North Korea seems a remote prospect. Not all view it as a remote prospect though. Writing in the Washington Post Jim Hoagland has an essay entitled "Nearing a Nuclear Jungle" where Hoagland calls on the UN Security Council members to recognize their shared interest in controlling nuclear proliferation.

The Security Council could offer Pyongyang nonaggression assurances and economic aid in return for a verifiable halt to its nuclear programs. At the same time, the U.N. body should threaten a global ban on North Korean arms shipments if defiance continues. The United States would be essential, but not alone and exposed, in either approach.

I find Hoagland's hope for UN action to deal with North Korea to be unrealistic for two reasons: First, China is not going to be willing to join in economic sanctions against North Korea and hence the UN Security Council will not be able to take any substantial position to put pressure on the North Korean regime. Second, his hope for a verifiable weapons inspectons system for North Korea flies in the face of our experience with UNSCOM, UNMOVIC, and similar efforts. It is not possible to control weapons proliferation with inspections regimes.

Hoagland makes a great point in his final paragraph when he warns the rest of the world that the Bush Administration could opt to build Fortress America with ICBM defenses and a less involved approach to the rest of the world if the US leaders decide they can't control nuclear proliferation with the help of the UN and major powers. However, by itself Fortress America is not an effective strategy of defense against weapons of mass destruction (WMD) because nuclear weapons can be smuggled in. America could have an incredibly effective defense against ICBMs and still be vulnerable to a nuke smuggled in to a US port in a container in a larger container ship or via any number of other means.

The US is still lacking an effective strategy to use against North Korea. North Korea as a proliferator of WMD technologies and even of complete WMD constitutes a grave threat to US and Western security.

By Randall Parker    2003 January 09 01:54 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2002 December 22 Sunday
Jim Hoagland on International Law, Preemption

Even some European thinkers see that international law in its current form is becoming obsolesced by the technological advances which are putting increasingly dangerous weapons into the hands of failed states and terrorists.

"A new set of rules governing the use of force" that "takes into account phenomena such as failed states" and the easy availability of highly destructive weapons must be devised, says Tomas Valasek, director of the Brussels office of the Center for Defense Information. The same basic thought was expressed the other day by a senior administration official in explaining the administration's recent, embarrassing climb-down on a shipment of North Korean Scud missiles to Yemen.

Hoagland goes on to briefly review just little help the US gets from Pakistan or Yemen in fighting Al Qaeda within their borders.

It also shows that the administration is vastly overpaying -- diplomatically, financially and politically -- for the limited cooperation it receives in fighting al Qaeda in Yemen and Pakistan. An inordinate fear that those two countries and others will swing over to supporting the extremists openly (instead of doing so covertly or through omission) drives the overcompensation as much as the practical necessities of the war on terror do. This is a misguided policy emphasis that is likely to be ineffective.

Both countries do have areas beyond the control of their central governments where Al Qaeda operatives can live and work. But it isn't clear here what Hoagland is suggesting. Is he saying we pay less to Yemen and Pakistan? If so then he's really just asserting that we are wasting our money. But if he's saying we should try to get more help from their governments I have to question whether that is possible. Musharraf can give us what help he provides in part because he's a dictator who can overrule the elected members of his government. The problem is that the public at large is really not keen on helping the US fight Al Qaeda and part of the public is actively supporting Al Qaeda (especially in the Northwest Frontier region). Democratically elected Islamic fundamentalists play a big role in the national government and Northwest Frontier regional government. So how can we expect to get much more help from Pakistan? The situation is so bad there that the FBI is hiring former Pakistani military officers to function as a parallel investigative effort against terrorists because the government's own intelligence and police agencies are dominated by Islamists and Al Qaeda supporters.

Yemen's national government similarly doesn't control all of its country and my impression of its regime is that it is more primitive as compared to Pakistan's government and controls a smaller fraction of its territory than the Pakistani central government controls in Pakistan. It also has a population that is not exactly enamored with the idea of helping the United States fight Al Qaeda. So what alternative option exists? Threaten military reprisals against Pakistan or Yemen if their central governments do not crack down harder on terrorists? Threaten an aid cut-off if more help isn't forthcoming? Would such tactics work?

One has to hope that there are better ways to bring the fight to the sanctuaries from which the terrorists now operate. Perhaps Mr. Hoagland will spell out in some future columns how the US can get more help from the governments of Pakistan and Yemen in the war against the terrorists. However it is hard to be optimistic on that score.

By Randall Parker    2002 December 22 02:59 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2002 December 17 Tuesday
Does Al Qaeda have Nuclear Weapons?

If Al Qaeda had nuclear weapons then wouldn't they have used them by now?

President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair have been warned Osama bin Laden has 20 suitcase nuclear weapons obtained for cash from former KGB agents, the London Sunday Express reports.

Would delivery be such a large problem that they couldn't manage to get them into the United States It seems logical that if Al Qaeda ever gets nuclear weapons they will want to blow them up in American cities first and foremost. Why would they get them and then wait to use them?

By Randall Parker    2002 December 17 05:04 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (1)
2002 December 16 Monday
North Korea and Iran Busy Developing Nukes

North Korea is already pursuing the production of weapons grade uranium. Yongbyon will provide them with weapons grade plutonium as well.

Although Yongbyon has been effectively mothballed since an October 1994 agreement with Washington, U.S. intelligence sources believe its small, Soviet-designed, five-megawatt reactor might be operable within two months. It would be capable of producing enough plutonium for one or two nuclear weapons a year.

Iran is similarly pursuing weapons grade plutonium and uranium production.

Russia's atomic energy minister, Aleksandr Rumyantsev, was quoted by the Itar-Tass news agency today as contending that Iran had violated no international rules in building the two nuclear sites that were disclosed last week through commercial satellite photographs. The United States said it was "deeply concerned" about the two sites, which have been known to American intelligence agencies for more than a year. One of the photographs appears to show a heavy water plant, critical for the production of a plutonium bomb. Another shows a separate facility for producing highly enriched uranium, another path to producing a nuclear weapon. Like North Korea, which just announced it would restart its plutonium program, Iran appears to be pursuing both approaches simultaneously.

Some people claim that North Korea can be deterred from using its nuclear weapons. But just as it has demonstrated a willingness to sell missiles and nuclear weapons development technology to other states it seems reasonable to expect it will be similiarly willing to sell weapons grade plutonium or uranium once it has enough for its own needs. Its not inconceivable that it would even be willing to sell complete nuclear weapons.

The Iranian regime is in some ways worse than the North Korean regime because it has an ideological motivation to pass technology for weapons of mass destruction on to terrorist groups. It also has many more ties with terrorists and provides haven and support for them.

The Bush Administration is going to do a big push against only one Axis Of Evil WMD proliferating regime at a time. So the question becomes which regime will be next once the Iraqi regime is ousted, North Korea or Iran? Iran seems like a convenient next target because the US military will be well installed next door in Iraq and in the Persian Gulf once the war against Saddam is completed. Also, Iran is involved in supporting terrorists. But its nuclear weapons development program is not as far along as the North Korean program. Plus, if the US holds off from direct military action or sanctions against Iran there is probably some hope that Iranian student protests will expand into a general uprising that will overthrow the regime. However, the Mullahs probably run a more effectively repressive regime than did the Shan and the Mullahs may be much harder to overthrow. Keep in mind that the success of the popular revolt against the Shah was actually an exception for the region. Still, Persian culture is probably more favorable for revolt than is the culture of any Arab country.

North Korea as a next candidate for US efforts toward regime change makes sense because North Korea is further along in WMD development, its a source of weapons and weapons technology for other regimes, and its causing terrible poverty, suffering, and death from famine. Plus, the regime is so poor that it might be possible to cause its collapse by cutting off all outside supplies. But the US isn't going to directly attack North Korea and it is not clear that the other major relevant powers will go along with sanctions that are severe enough to cause the collapse of the regime.

So what will the Bush Administration do next after Iraq? Hard to say. Keep in mind that it is very unlikely that the Iranian and North Korean regimes will abandon their WMD developments and other activities that cause us problems. The only certain way to eliminate the threats that they pose is to cause, one way or another, regime change. If George W. Bush is really dedicated to the strategy of preemption then another regime will be targeted after Iraq. A lot of diplomatic-speak will be made claiming that the US is not determined to force regime change in the next major focus of US attention. But when that talk starts just remember that in December 2002 Colin Powell is still claiming that the removal of the Iraqi regime is not inevitable.

By Randall Parker    2002 December 16 10:19 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2002 December 14 Saturday
Jim Hoagland on Trying To Control The Proliferators

The US government faces so many different weapons of mass destruction proliferation problems that it can't try to solve them all at once. Attempts to get China to pressure North Korea have met with no success.

"We have to deal with one urgent problem at a time right now," said a U.S. official. The implication was that Pakistan's past proliferation has to be overlooked while Washington pursues the war on global terrorism, disarming Iraq and shutting down any new nuclear leaks to North Korea. "What Pakistan does right now on those fronts is getting our intense attention."

China is another country of concern for the administration on North Korea. I am told that Bush delivered a private but crystal clear warning to President Jiang Zemin in October that China's willingness -- or lack thereof -- to help contain North Korea's nuclear ambitions would now affect U.S.-China relations. But the Chinese have not applied pressure on Kim Jong Il since then. Their private inaction during a time of leadership transition matches their public statements that they can do nothing about North Korea, says one knowledgeable and therefore worried American.

The US government has to worry about state sponsorship of terrorism, state tolerance of terrorists, states that serve as suppliers of WMD technologies, and states that are attempting to develop WMD technologies. Once the Iraqi regime is overthrown the US will need to move on to what to do about Libya, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and North Korea. It remains to be seen whether the Bush Administration will be willing and able to prevent all those states from doing WMD development and buying more WMD supplies from each other. Some of those regimes must fall in order for all state sponsorship and toleration of terrorism to be stopped. Some of those regimes will need to be invaded in order to put an end to their WMD programs.

So does the Bush Administration have what it takes to do all that needs to be done? Michael Ledeed says that the Bush Administration's caving on the Scud shipment shows they are not serious.

My understanding is that it took weeks to plan and coordinate with the Spaniards. Then the operation is launched, everything goes according to plan (or even better than planned), and we've got them, we've shown the ghastly North Koreans who's boss, we've exposed yet another pipeline to the terrorists — and then the Yemenis (the Yemenis!) have a failure of nerve (they must have taken a lot of heat and listened to a lot of threats), and they caved, and we caved right along with them.

I don't know what all the factors were that played into that decision. But its not encouraging.

By Randall Parker    2002 December 14 04:19 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2002 December 12 Thursday
US Navy Announces New Cheap Cruise Missile Design

The US Navy's Office Of Naval Research has announced the development of a cruise missile that costs only $40,000 to build.

A small turbojet engine, basically a modified automotive supercharger, gives the Affordable Weapon a range of several hundred miles, said John Petrik, an ONR spokesman. Commercial GPS sets generate the guidance information, with onboard processors available to accept retargeting or loitering commands from a remote observer via satellite or direct radio links.

Note the use of widely available commercial technology. This article quotes an analyst who dismisses the idea that this cheap design approach could easily be reproduced by rogue states or terrorist groups. But once some group has shown that a particular approach is possible it allows other groups to know where to focus their efforts. As cheap technology becomes increasingly more advanced the difficulty of developing weapons of mass destruction and delivery vehicles for WMD becomes increasingly easier. This trend looks set to run indefinitely into the future. The world going forward is going to become a more dangerous place as more potent weapons spread into the hands of smaller nations and non-governmental groups.

By Randall Parker    2002 December 12 02:22 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2002 December 05 Thursday
Charles Krauthammer On Deterrence Versus Preemption

In an excellent essay Charles Krauthammer argues that preemption is a safer form of deterrence because preemption will deter regimes from trying to get weapons of mass destruction in the first place.

DETERRENCE NOSTALGICS also conveniently forget its debilitating psychological effects. For fifty years, the peace of the world hinged on a balance of terror. As Churchill memorably characterized the central paradox, "Safety will be the sturdy child of terror, and survival the twin brother of annihilation." Terror and paradox are not easy to live with. To rest strategic stability on terror and paradox is to ask a lot of a democratic society.

Sometimes too much. During the now warmly remembered Cold War, ban-the-bomb and disarmament movements erupted with dismaying regularity. They reached their apogee during the nuclear hysteria that swept Western Europe and the United States in the early 1980s. This widespread collapse of the consensus in favor of deterrence saw the largest political demonstration in American history, an anti-nuclear rally that brought over 700,000 protesters to New York City in June 1982. Opinion leaders, academics, physicians' groups, major media, and the Democratic party were so seized by fear of nuclear war that they frantically sought escape by either a ridiculous solution--a nuclear freeze (it passed the House of Representatives 278-149)--or a disastrous one: unilateral disarmament. Indeed, the book that sparked the frenzy, Jonathan Schell's "The Fate of the Earth," perhaps the most celebrated book of the time, was an indictment of deterrence and a manifesto for disarmament.

The question whether to pursue a policy of preemption is the most important foreign policy question of the current era. See my collection of posts on Preemption, Deterrence and Containment for more arguments on this question.

By Randall Parker    2002 December 05 12:11 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2002 November 13 Wednesday
Max Boot: The Left's new love affair with containment.

Writing in The Weekly Standard Max Boot, author of The Savage Wars of Peace: Small Wars and the Rise of American Power", discusses the sudden conversion of many on the Left into supporters of containment and deterrence:

The only time the Left showed any enthusiasm for deterrence was in bashing "Star Wars," as they dubbed the Strategic Defense Initiative unveiled by Ronald Reagan in 1983. After years of protesting deterrence and ridiculing its architects as crazed warmongers (see, for example, "Dr. Strangelove"), liberals suddenly sounded like Herman Kahn disciples as they preached the virtues of Mutual Assured Destruction. This wasn't a fundamental shift in thinking, however. They praised MAD in order to protest Star Wars, but argued against deterrence in general by advocating a nuclear freeze and a "no first use" policy on nuclear weapons. The Left's stance in the Star Wars debate should therefore be seen as a politically convenient, if not terribly sincere, embrace of an ideology they loathed in order to defeat something they hated even more--Ronald Reagan and his "peace through strength" philosophy.

Containment was even less popular on the left than deterrence. "Containment" is depicted these days as a passive doctrine of peace, as opposed to the warmongering of "preemption" advocates. The reality was a good deal more sordid. What did containment entail? It meant support for the Greek colonels, the Argentine generals, the shah, Pinochet, Marcos, Somoza, and other unsavory characters who were in "our" camp. It meant helping to overthrow rulers, such as Mossadegh in Iran, Arbenz in Guatemala, and Allende in Chile, who were seen as drifting toward the other side. It meant major wars against North Korea and North Vietnam. It meant invasions of the Dominican Republic and Grenada. It meant support for anti-Communist guerrillas in places like Cuba (the Bay of Pigs), Angola, Nicaragua, and Afghanistan.

Containment was chosen as the long-term policy to pursue against the Soviet Union because there were no practical alternatives. But when there are practical alternatives why should we allow hostile regimes to become far greater threats to us?

By Randall Parker    2002 November 13 11:45 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
Melana Zyla Vickers On Clintonite Dominance Lite

Former Clinton Administration foreign policy officials are arguing that the US has too much power and it should restrain itself and only do what international institutions say it is allowed to do. That the Clinton Admnistration bypassed the UN on numerous occasions apparently was okay because the Clintonistas were liberal progressive Democrats and hence by definition (at least in their minds) were possessed of wisdom and enlightenment.

Now Charles Kupchan, another former official of the Clinton National Security Council has written a book about how the US is going to cease to be a dominant power (which is true - but there is this big question of timing). Kupchan sounds quite eager for that day to arrive:

Charles Kupchan, author of the book "The End of the American Era: U.S. Foreign Policy and the Geopolitics of the Twenty-first Century," agreed with Lind that Bush's foreign policy seems to be driven by a core group of conservative thinkers in the administration with exactly those such ideals.

"What we are seeing is a world out of balance, with a small group of people in the Bush administration (who have), in my mind, too much power," Kupchan said at the forum.

Writing on Tech Central Station Melana Zyla Vickers takes on the former Clintonites in an essay where she labels their approach Dominance Lite

These critics tried dominance-lite and failed. In the 1990s, Binnendijk, Kupchan and their NSC pals led by Sandy Berger gave dominance-lite a whirl. Their diplomacy was unbacked by credible threats of force. More importantly they employed militarily "proportionate responses" to various international outrages. This prompted greater violence and global danger, not greater diplomacy.

To name a few failed proportionate responses: the missiles flung after the Iraqi assassination attempt on President Bush in 1993, the missiles flung after the Al Qaeda bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa, the complete inaction after the U.S.S. Cole bombing, the missiles and airstrikes that followed Saddam Hussein's ejection of weapons inspectors in 1998, and the carrots-only package of incentives to North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program, which was met with bald disregard.

I find the Clintonites shameless and audacious. They made huge mistakes in foreign policy. Their policies toward North Korea, Al Qaeda, and other threats has been shown by subsequent events to be hopelessly naive. Yet they are still out their flogging their discredited approach to foriegn policy. Are they unaware that they made fools of themselves? Are they just oblivious to the empirical evidence?

These people are all about process. Never mind whether the process achieves the desired outcome. They resist the very idea of declaring which outcomes would demonstrate a failure of policy because to the liberal foreign policy establishment (which itself is a small club since only domestic policy is important to them) o many liberals when it comes to foreign policy the process that they advocate is, for some reason, sacred. They believe that the world can only be made a safe and peaceful place thru international organizations and treaties and so they are just going to keep flogging that horse even if the horse is lying on the ground near death or running for a cliff.

Update: Henry Sokolski, author of Best of Intentions: America's Campaign Against Strategic Weapons Proliferation, has an essay in the Weekly Standard that reviews some of the history of US dealing with North Korea over North Korea's nuclear weapons program:

As generous as the deal was, Pyongyang went to work to dishonor it as soon as the ink was dry. In fact, within 24 months of its signing in October of 1994, U.S. intelligence judged that North Korea had already built two nuclear weapons. This meant that contrary to the deal's terms, which required North Korea to "consistently take steps to implement" its 1992 pledge not to possess nuclear weapons, the intelligence community believed that Pyongyang was secretly hoarding them. Clinton administration officials knew this. They decided, however, to dispute the intelligence finding and instead had Madeleine Albright announce that the deal had "eliminated" the Korean nuclear threat.

Late in 1997 and 1998, though, additional intelligence emerged that Pyongyang was testing high-explosive implosion devices for nuclear weapons and was working at several potential covert nuclear weapons sites. The Clinton administration, heckled into action by Congress and news leaks, again slow-rolled the matter. After more than a year of "tough" consultations with North Korea (and a promise of an additional half million tons of food aid), Clinton at last sent U.S. experts to visit just one of the suspect sites. In the interim, newspapers reported that U.S. satellites photographed North Koreans removing equipment from the site. When finally inspected--surprise--the site was empty.

By Randall Parker    2002 November 13 05:38 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2002 November 12 Tuesday
Condoleezza Rice On Preemption Or Anticipatory Defense

This is from an interview that Condoleezza Rice gave to New Perspective Quarterly editor Nathan Gardels on September 5, 2002:

CONDOLEEZZA RICE | The concept of not waiting to be attacked goes back a long way in history. It isn't new in that sense. But it is also the case that preemption or "anticipatory defense" ought to be used sparingly. It isn't a blanket policy.

There are certain kinds of regimes that, if they acquire weapons of mass destruction, we must consider a danger because we know their history. The history here is extremely important. Anticipatory defense should not be used as a cover for aggression. It really should be a rare occurrence.

There are threats amenable to being dealt with in other ways, whether through diplomacy, or even coercive diplomacy, or, in the case of India and Pakistan, the involvement of the United States and Great Britain in helping to resolve the conflict.

But there are a few cases that may get beyond other means. Then, you have to reserve the right to use force.

Finally, there is a difference between preemption of capabilities and regime change. They are not the same. You may more often, as the United States has done in the past, preempt capability. But preempting for regime change ought to be a very rare occurrence.

NPQ | Then is it up to any given power to decide on its own when preemptive action is justifiable? Ought the United Nations be involved?

RICE | The US is going to maintain a right to self-defense. But let me be clear: We are not going to militarily preempt every time we see a threat. There are other options. But when it gets to the place where a lot has been tried, and it looks dangerous, then you have to act.

The problem with her phrasing here is that general technological advances are going to make it increasingly easy to develop weapons of mass destruction. If the US waits to try many alternatives and lets a lot of time go by before preempting then it will fail to preempt in time. Also, as a wide assortment of technologies advance and become more widely available the ability to even detect WMD development programs will decline because it will become impossible use purchases of special use equipment as a sign that WMD development is being done by a regime. There will be less of a need to buy special purpose equipment as equipment with many civilian uses becomes capable of also making parts needed for WMD. Ultimately, in order to make the preemption strategy work in the medium run it may become necessary to overthrow (either by invasion or covert ops) any hostile regime about which it can reasonably be said that it has a strong motive to develop WMD. In the long run preemption as a strategy may fail entirely when it becomes possible for groups of private individuals to develop WMD.

By Randall Parker    2002 November 12 09:57 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2002 November 10 Sunday
David Ignatius On Hussein's Hobson's Choice

If Saddam could survive in power after the loss of face that would come from giving up many weapons and equipment for making weapons then that would be his best option. But could he survive such a decision? He might be able to get away with a partial hand over of his means of making WMD if he could manage to hide the rest of the equipment well. It might be very My guess is he will pretend he has no weapons of mass destruction or means for making them.

A faction within Hussein's government is said to be urging him to comply with the U.N. resolution. Give up the weapons, they are supposedly telling the Iraqi leader. The real source of Iraqi power is the country's scientific and technical expertise, they contend, which will still be there in a few years when the Americans have forgotten about Iraq again.


But nobody in Hussein's inner circle is thought to be advocating compliance, and for a simple reason: They know that if he reversed course and gave up the weapons he has secretly been accumulating for so many years, it would amount to a disastrous loss of face. The regime's authority would crumble -- and Hussein, his family and inner circle would be more vulnerable than ever to attack.

The problem with the path that the Bush Administration has taken with the UN is that it has provided Saddam with a possible way get thru this crisis without losing power. The UN inspections dance has set up a situation where Saddam might be able to successfully pretend that he's obeying the UN resolution. But it is not possible to persuade Saddam Hussein give up his efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction. The whole inspections regime is based on the fiction that inspections can uncover all the weapons and weapons labs and that the UN will sustain firm support for inspections for years. The embrace of this fiction misleads casual observers and allows some politicians and pundits to continue to promote the myth that inspections can stop the proliferation of WMD.

By Randall Parker    2002 November 10 10:23 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
Jim Hoagland on the Norh Korea Pak Nuke Deal

Elsewhere it is claimed that North Korea has also made a deal with Iran for nuclear weapons development. Has Pakistan made other deals? How to put Pandora back in her box?

This deal was also an implicit statement of revolt that reaches beyond local ambitions to confront India or South Korea or to ensure national survival and sovereignty. Selling or transferring nuclear-weapons material and technology to nations that have no connection to your national survival is a significant new development. That is why the key questions about what has happened -- and why -- must be pursued with Pakistan as well as North Korea.

The Bush administration is disinclined to ask President Pervez Musharraf those questions as the war on al Qaeda continues. That is shortsighted. If Pakistan will break the rules to help a distant pauper Asian dictatorship, how can it say no to rich Islamic countries such as Saudi Arabia and Libya when they offer to buy an Islamic bomb? If there is no accounting from Pakistan, the major powers' pretense of control over the spread of nuclear weapons is exposed as one more giant fraud of the past heady decade.

By Randall Parker    2002 November 10 12:08 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2002 November 09 Saturday
Former DIA Analyst: Saudi Arabia Bankrolled Pak Nukes

Former US Defense Intelligence Agency analyst Thomas Woodrow writing in a publication of the Jamestown Foundation claims that Saudi Arabia may have funded Pakistan's nuclear weapons development program:

Beijing is rapidly becoming a major player in world oil markets, and increasingly sees access to energy resources as a critical component of its national security and long-term military strategy. It has assiduously cultivated ties with Riyadh since the mid-1980s, when it sold CSS-2 nuclear-capable intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBMs) to Saudi Arabia. Some reports indicate that Saudi Arabia has been involved in funding Pakistan's missile and nuclear program purchases from China, which has resulted in Pakistan becoming a nuclear weapons-producing and -proliferating state.

China maintains a very close relationship with Saudi Arabia as a key component of its strategy to guarantee access to oil resources in the Persian Gulf. Until 1995, China was a net exporter of oil. In 2001, it imported over 60 million tons. Its need for imported oil to maintain its GNP growth will at least double over the next decade. It will very soon become a major influence in the global oil market, a development that will have immense ramifications on resource competition and international security ties.

Later in the same report there is the warning that the Saudis might buy nukes from Pakistan:

If these reports are correct, what in essence has happened is that Saudi Arabia has given money to China for Pakistan's missile and nuclear programs. If so, Saudi Arabia could be buying a nuclear capability from China through a proxy state with Pakistan serving as the cutout. If Riyadh's influence over Pakistan extends to its nuclear programs, Saudi Arabia could rapidly become a de facto nuclear power through a simple shipment of missiles and warheads.

Separately Paul Wolfowitz claims Saudi Arabia purchased ballistic missiles from China:

In an address to a Washington audience on Oct. 24, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said Riyad acquired the missiles from China in a development that stunned Washington, Middle East Newsline reported.

"I believe in the 1980s when Saudi Arabia acquired long-range ballistic missiles from the People's Republic of China it took us completely by surprise," Wolfowitz told Frontiers for Freedom. "We think a relatively harmless surprise, but nonetheless a surprise."

Wolfowitz's disclosure comes as Riyad is said to be mulling a new missile purchase from China and Pakistan. Western intelligence sources said Riyad has built new silos and facilities for intermediate-range missiles and has intensified efforts to procure nuclear weapons.

By Randall Parker    2002 November 09 09:56 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2002 November 08 Friday
Martin Woollacott: Inspectors Will Solve Nothing In Iraq

Writing in the UK Guardian Martin Woollacott examines the arguments that Kenneth Pollack makes in The Threatening Storm and surprisingly for a Guardian writer, finds much to agree with:

Pollack's views give some idea of the difficulties ahead. The resolution, whatever its virtues in reconciling for the moment the approaches of America and other leading nations, solves nothing in itself. A genuine renunciation of weaponry by Saddam is the least likely consequence, and in any case could not be verified. Yet, if Pollack is right about inspection difficulties, Saddam could well get away with continued concealment. Unless the US already has some very reliable intelligence on a facility that Saddam tries to deny to the inspectors, which is not impossible, Washington could be denied the "caught red-handed" case that would convince the world. If so, the evidence of a breach could be indirect or partial, and we would be back again to a situation in which the US and Britain saw a cause for war and others chose not to see the same thing.

It is gratifying to see people on the left seriously considering Kenneth Pollack's case for preemption. To read more on preemption read Stanley Kurtz on Kenneth Pollack and more generally read the Preemption, Deterrence, Containment Archive.

By Randall Parker    2002 November 08 06:44 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2002 November 04 Monday
CIA: Russia, France, North Korea, Iraq Have Smallpox

This report underlines the need for an even larger stockpile of smallpox vaccine. Other countries could become infected as a side effect of an attack on the US:

The CIA now assesses that four nations -- Iraq, North Korea, Russia and, to the surprise of some specialists, France -- have undeclared samples of the smallpox virus.

The agency's Weapons Intelligence, Nonproliferation and Arms Control Center (WINPAC) described a sliding scale of confidence in those assessments in a briefing prepared last spring. The briefing circulated among senior homeland security, public health and national security officials. Though the quality of its information varied from "very high" to "medium," one official said the report covered only nations for which "we have good evidence."

The US ought to be really ready in the vaccine department before it launches an attack on Iraq. Jordan and Kuwait have asked for smallpox vaccine because they both fear a smallpox attack from Iraq. That the US is reluctant to honor their requests suggests that the US does not have enough vaccine stock to run the risk of a war against Iraq.

By Randall Parker    2002 November 04 10:59 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2002 November 03 Sunday
Lone Scientist Anthrax Theory Discounted By Experts

Many bioweapons experts think that the set of technical problems that would have to be solved to make anthrax that has the qualities of what was sent to Senators Thomas A. Daschle and Patrick J. Leahy exceeds the intellectual and financial resources of a single lone scientist:

"In my opinion, there are maybe four or five people in the whole country who might be able to make this stuff, and I'm one of them," said Richard O. Spertzel, chief biological inspector for the U.N. Special Commission from 1994 to 1998. "And even with a good lab and staff to help run it, it might take me a year to come up with a product as good."

Instead, suggested Spertzel and more than a dozen experts interviewed by The Washington Post in recent weeks, investigators might want to reexamine the possibility of state-sponsored terrorism, or try to determine whether weaponized spores may have been stolen by the attacker from an existing, but secret, biodefense program or perhaps given to the attacker by an accomplice.

Meanwhile, the FBI is trying to develop the ability to make anthrax with the same qualities as was used in the mail attacks:

FBI investigators and federal scientists have been secretly working for months to replicate the type of anthrax used in last year's deadly mail attacks, as part of a previously undisclosed strategy designed to determine precisely how the spores were manufactured, officials said yesterday.

FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, who revealed the experiments in remarks to reporters here, said that using such "reverse engineering" could help investigators narrow the list of possible suspects.

There is a basic lesson in this whole anthrax attack saga: if we can't trace attacks back to their origin then deterrence will not work as a strategy to prevent them. There are regimes that are deeply hostile to the US and to the West in general that are developing bioweapons. How to deter them from launching attacks? Deterrence may not be possible.

By Randall Parker    2002 November 03 04:23 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2002 November 02 Saturday
Condi: North Korea More Economically Vulnerable

US National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice argues that economic carrots and sticks have a better chance of working with North Korea whereas such tools have already failed with Iraq.

"The international community has tried sanctions, and limited military force, and everything else. Iraq is in a class by itself," Ms. Rice said. "With North Korea, we think we have a chance to make a diplomatic effort work because the North Koreans, unlike the Iraqis who have oil revenues to fuel their programs, the North Koreans have been signaling to everybody that they are in deep economic trouble."

By Randall Parker    2002 November 02 08:37 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2002 November 01 Friday
Warren Buffett: 99.5% Odds WMD Terrorism In 50 Years

Writing in the Washington Times Arnaud de Borchgrave reports on Warren Buffett's views on the threat of weapons of mass destruction being used by terrorists:

The chances of making it through the next 50 years without a weapon of mass destruction act of terrorism are no better than 1 in 200. So wrote Warren Buffett, the wizard of Wall Street whose uncanny sixth sense for stock picks made him a billionaire 36 times over and propelled his Berkshire Hathaway into a Fortune 500 powerhouse.

Warren Buffett said this in a letter to former Georgia Senator Sam Nunn who is now the Co-Chairman of the Nuclear Threat Initiative.

Update: After some digging I was able to find the URL to the PDF of a Sam Nunn speech of October 22, 2002 where he quoted from Warren Buffett's letter:

Through my work at NTI, I’m often asked, “What are the odds of nuclear use by a terrorist group?” Today, I received a letter from Warren Buffett, who is an adviser to NTI, describing the statistical chance of a nuclear, biological or chemical weapon attack in the United States. His letter said:

"If the chance of a weapon of mass destruction being used in a given year is 10 percent and the same probability persists for 50 years, the probability of the event happening at least once during that 50 years is 99.5 percent. Thus, the chance of getting through the 50-year period without a disaster is .51 percent -- just slightly better than one in 200.

“If the probability of similar weapons being utilized can be reduced to 3 percent per year, the world has a 21.8 percent chance of making it through 50 years without an event. And if the annual chance can be reduced to 1 percent, there is a 60.5 percent chance of making it through 50 years.

“Of course, no one knows what the true probabilities are, but this sort of calculation points up the extraordinary benefit to humanity that can be achieved by reducing the probabilities of usage."

At NTI, we are working to reduce toward zero the risk that nuclear, biological or chemical weapons will ever be used, by intent or accident, anywhere in the world. This must become the mission of our government and others.

The PDF makes it a lot easier to see what is being said by Buffett versus what is being said by Nunn or the author of the WT article. Note that it is Buffett who is saying that noone knows what the true probabilities are. So he is not really claiming that there is a 99.5% chance of the use of nuclear weapons or other WMD in a terrorist act in the next 50 years. But its worth noting that both of the example probabilities that Buffett uses in his example are dangerously high. This guy is trying to make a strong point.

My own take on the probability is that it rises every year. The knowledge needed to build WMD continues to spread more widely while the equipment needed becomes more readily available and at lower cost. Not only is the knowledge and equipment spreading more widely but the cost of the equipment will only fall and the rate at which the knowledge spreads will accelerate while new technologies will make it increasingly easier to build both biological and nuclear weapons. It is the recognition of this problem that lies at the heart of the Bush Administration's preemption strategy. If someone wants to seriously argue against preemption they must at least try to propose an alternative to preemption that has a serious prospect of stopping the spread of WMD.

By Randall Parker    2002 November 01 04:30 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
US Military Countering North Korean Missile Threat

All the states the US is preparing to build defenses against are also developing nuclear weapons.

North Korea, Iran, Iraq and Libya are key missile-developing states of concern against which the United States is preparing to build defenses, he said.

Gen. Kadish said the missile-defense test site being built at Fort Greely, Alaska, is moving ahead and by late 2004 or early 2005 will provide the nation with an emergency defense against a North Korean missile attack.

By Randall Parker    2002 November 01 04:13 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2002 October 15 Tuesday
Reuel Marc Gerecht: Iraq A Necessary War

Former CIA agent Reuel Marc Gerecht argues that an invasion of Iraq will actually increase cooperation from Middle Eastern intelligence services:

A war against Iraq will reinforce, not weaken, whatever collective spirit has developed among intelligence and security agencies working against Islamic radicals. Indeed, without the war to remove Saddam, it is likely that the counterterrorist efforts of "allied" intelligence and security services in the Muslim world will diminish, if not end entirely. And it shouldn't be that hard to understand why. Self-interest and fear of American power, not feelings of fraternity and common purpose, are what will glue together any lasting international effort against terrorism.

An invasion of Iraq will not lessen efforts by European intelligence services to reign in terrorists:

An Anglo-American invasion of Iraq would in no way diminish the self-defensive reflex that propelled all of the Continental Europeans to monitor their Muslim populations more closely and seek maximum cooperation from American intelligence and security agencies. European public opinion may fear the war in Iraq, European elites may loathe the moralizing, over-muscled, "unilateral" American approach to foreign policy, but European statesmen and policemen, first and foremost, want to protect their own. They know there is no neutral option in this war against terrorism; they can't make a behind-the-scenes deal with holy warriors, as some Europeans made pacts in the past with more secular Middle Eastern terrorists.

This article is full of insights into the real (as opposed to publically professed) motives of European and Middle Eastern regimes and their intelligence services.

By Randall Parker    2002 October 15 09:29 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2002 October 04 Friday
Condoleezza Rice on Containment, Deterrence, Preemption

Condoleezza Rice recently delivered the Manhattan Institute's Wriston Lecture at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City. The lecture covered a variety of foreign policy topics but this excerpt focuses on preemption:

The National Security Strategy does not overturn five decades of doctrine and jettison either containment or deterrence. These strategic concepts can and will continue to be employed where appropriate. But some threats are so potentially catastrophic -- and can arrive with so little warning, by means that are untraceable -- that they cannot be contained. Extremists who seem to view suicide as a sacrament are unlikely to ever be deterred. And new technology requires new thinking about when a threat actually becomes "imminent." So as a matter of common sense, the United States must be prepared to take action, when necessary, before threats have fully materialized.

Preemption is not a new concept. There has never been a moral or legal requirement that a country wait to be attacked before it can address existential threats. As George Shultz recently wrote, "If there is a rattlesnake in the yard, you don't wait for it to strike before you take action in self-defense." The United States has long affirmed the right to anticipatory self-defense -- from the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 to the crisis on the Korean Peninsula in 1994.

But this approach must be treated with great caution. The number of cases in which it might be justified will always be small. It does not give a green light -- to the United States or any other nation -- to act first without exhausting other means, including diplomacy. Preemptive action does not come at the beginning of a long chain of effort. The threat must be very grave. And the risks of waiting must far outweigh the risks of action.

To support all these means of defending the peace, the United States will build and maintain 21st century military forces that are beyond challenge.

We will seek to dissuade any potential adversary from pursuing a military build-up in the hope of surpassing, or equaling, the power of the United States and our allies.

Some have criticized this frankness as impolitic. But surely clarity is a virtue here. Dissuading military competition can prevent potential conflict and costly global arms races. And the United States invites -- indeed, we exhort -- our freedom loving allies, such as those in Europe, to increase their military capabilities.

The burden of maintaining a balance of power that favors freedom should be shouldered by all nations that favor freedom. What none of us should want is the emergence of a militarily powerful adversary who does not share our common values.

Thankfully, this possibility seems more remote today than at any point in our lifetimes. We have an historic opportunity to break the destructive pattern of great power rivalry that has bedeviled the world since rise of the nation state in the 17th century. Today, the world's great centers of power are united by common interests, common dangers, and -- increasingly -- common values. The United States will make this a key strategy for preserving the peace for many decades to come.

By Randall Parker    2002 October 04 11:44 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
Jackson Diehl: Rice Doctrine is Brilliant Synthesis

Jackson Diehl argues that Condoleezza Rice may some day be seen as comparable to George Kennan for the lasting effect of the change she is making in US foreign policy:

The Bush doctrine commits the United States to act aggressively, with others or alone, "to promote a balance of power that favors freedom." The phobias about engaging abroad that paralyzed policy in the '90s, and infuriated the internationalists, are banished. This isn't just the Jacksonian assertion of American interests, though that is surely part of it. There is also a Wilsonian promise to "bring the hope of democracy, development, free markets and free trade to every corner of the world" -- and a Kissingerian strategy of maintaining a "great power balance" that decisively favors the United States. The ambition is breathtaking: "We will work to translate this moment of influence," declares the doctrine, "into decades of peace, prosperity and liberty." It is, in short, a bold -- and mostly brilliant -- synthesis, one that conceivably could cause national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, who executed it, to be remembered as the policymaker who defined a new era.

By Randall Parker    2002 October 04 11:02 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2002 October 03 Thursday
Condoleezza Rice: Promoting the National Interest

Condoleezza Rice wrote this article for January/February 2000 issue of Foreign Affairs in order to present the Bush position on foreign affairs for the 2000 US Presidential election campaign. Its fairly long and covers many foreign policy topics. Here's an excerpt about Iraq and North Korea that illustrates that while 9/11 may have accelerated Bush Administration foreign policy plans it has not changed their direction as much as many observers believe:

As history marches toward markets and democracy, some states have been left by the side of the road. Iraq is the prototype. Saddam Hussein's regime is isolated, his conventional military power has been severely weakened, his people live in poverty and terror, and he has no useful place in international politics. He is therefore determined to develop WMD. Nothing will change until Saddam is gone, so the United States must mobilize whatever resources it can, including support from his opposition, to remove him.

The regime of Kim Jong Il is so opaque that it is difficult to know its motivations, other than that they are malign. But North Korea also lives outside of the international system. Like East Germany, North Korea is the evil twin of a successful regime just across its border. It must fear its eventual demise from the sheer power and pull of South Korea. Pyongyang, too, has little to gain and everything to lose from engagement in the international economy. The development of WMD thus provides the destructive way out for Kim Jong Il.

President Kim Dae Jung of South Korea is attempting to find a peaceful resolution with the north through engagement. Any U.S. policy toward the north should depend heavily on coordination with Seoul and Tokyo. In that context, the 1994 framework agreement that attempted to bribe North Korea into forsaking nuclear weapons cannot easily be set aside. Still, there is a trap inherent in this approach: sooner or later Pyongyang will threaten to test a missile one too many times, and the United States will not respond with further benefits. Then what will Kim Jong Il do? The possibility for miscalculation is very high.

By Randall Parker    2002 October 03 10:45 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (2)
2002 October 01 Tuesday
Stanley Kurtz Sums Up Preemption Argument

Stanley Kurtz continues to find much to agree with in Kenneth Pollack's book The Threatening Storm. In Kurtz's latest he explains that the argument for preemption is not being made clearly and the political reasons why this is so. First, the argument for why preemption is necessary:

There are two reasons why Saddam Hussein must not be allowed to obtain nuclear weapons: First, because he may pass them to terrorists, or his own intelligence agents, for use against the United States. Second, because once in possession of nuclear weapons, Saddam will move to take control of the Gulf and subject America to nuclear blackmail. Some believe that Saddam's fear of nuclear retaliation will make him hold back from another move on Kuwait. But Saddam sees the matter in reverse. If he takes Kuwait before we can stop him, he will force the United States to decide between ceding him control of the region's oil supplies, and an invasion that would surely result in a nuclear strike by Saddam against either our troops, our cities, the Saudi oil fields, or all of these. Thus threatened, the United States may indeed be forced to back down and grant Saddam control of the world's oil. This is why Saddam has sacrificed all in pursuit of a nuclear weapon.

Also see my previous posts (here and here and here and here and here) on the arguments of Stanley Kurtz, Marc Trachtenberg, and Kenneth Pollack on preemption, deterrence, and containment.

UPDATE: Also see this link on Pollack. If you go into the ParaPundit September Archive you will find other posts on deterrence, preemption, and containment.

By Randall Parker    2002 October 01 01:09 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (2)
2002 September 30 Monday
US trying to deterrent Iraqi chem/bio weapons use

The goal is so send a strong message to Saddam's field commanders that they will be much better off after the war if they restrain from using chemical and biological weapons:

Whether a plan to deter Iraqi commanders from employing the weapons will work is a matter of disagreement among military experts. The Republican Guard units that control the weapons are run by Hussein's most loyal officers.

"They will face a short-term or a long-term problem," one former senior intelligence official said. "We may come after them when the fighting is over. But there may be a Saddam loyalist with a gun who is threatening to kill him right away if he doesn't follow orders."

This article pretty much just sums up what has already been reported elsewhere. Previously there has been rumoured to be a document from Iraq in the hands of US intelligence that, if it is authentic, is orders from Saddam issued last spring to his field commanders pre-authorizing the field commanders to use chemical and biological weapons in the event that field commanders lose communications with higher level commanders. It seems very likely that Saddam would issue such orders.

By Randall Parker    2002 September 30 07:01 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (1)
2002 September 28 Saturday
Kissinger and Powell on Preemption

Henry Kissinger and Colin Powell testified before a Senate panel on Sept 26, 2002:

Kissinger, calling preemption "inherent" in the nature of the terrorist challenge, warned that "if the world is not to turn into a doomsday machine, a way must be found to prevent proliferation - especially to rogue states whose governments have no restraint on the exercise of their power."

Although some critics claim the case is not strong enough to warrant a military attack on Iraq, both Powell and Kissinger felt otherwise. Powell went through Iraqi president Saddam Hussein's possession of weapons of mass destruction, his repeated violations of United Nations resolutions, his abysmal human rights record, and perhaps the administrations worst fear, that terrorists will acquire some of Hussein's weapons of mass destruction.

"We now see a proven menace like Saddam Hussein in possession of weapons of mass destructions who could empower a few terrorists with those weapons to threaten millions of innocent people," Powell told the committee.

Kissinger expressed similar concerns: "The existence and, even more, the growth of stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq poses a threat to international peace and stability...It's policy is implacably hostile to the United States, to neighboring countries, and to established rules that govern relations among nations...By it's defiance of the U.N. Security Council resolutions requiring it to give up WMD, Iraq has in effect asserted the determination to possess weapons whose very existence compounds the terrorist threat immeasurably."

When members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee asked if there was a peaceful solution, particularly a way to achieve such thorough weapons inspections, Powell argued that "We must not believe that inspectors going in on the same conditions and under the same terms that they went in on so many occasions earlier will be acceptable now. We won't fall for that."

Kissinger, as a former Secretary of State, favors a strong U.N. resolution calling for stringent weapons inspections, but Kissinger expressed the same skepticism about inspections as Powell.

"It should be backed by standby authority and perhaps a standby force to remove any obstacle to transparency," he said. "Moreover, any system of inspection must be measured against the decline in vigilance that accompanied the previously flawed system's operation."

Senators also expressed concern that a war with Iraq would detract from the war on terrorism. Kissinger disagreed, arguing, "The opposite is more likely to be true. Eliminating such weapons in Iraq is an important aspect of the second phase of the anti-terrorism campaign. It demonstrates American determination to get at the root causes and some of the ultimate capabilities of what is, in essence, a crusade against free values."

By Randall Parker    2002 September 28 09:43 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2002 September 27 Friday
Kenneth Pollack on Containment, Deterrence, Preemption

In an essay in March/April 2002 issue of Foreign Affairs Kenneth Pollack (author of the recently released The Threatening Storm) reviews the decay of the efficacy of sanctions on Saddam Hussein's regime and their failure to prevent him from acquiring militarily useful technologies (technologies needed to develop WMD being of greatest concern), the unlikelihood that the containment approach can be improved, and the inadequacy of deterrence as a fall-back position:

Ironically, in practice the smart sanctions probably would not do much more than briefly stave off containment's collapse. Right now the U.N. uses its control over Iraq's contracts to determine what goes into and out of the country legally. The system is policed through U.N. (read U.S.) scrutiny of every Iraqi contract -- a cumbersome and glacially slow process that still fails to stop Saddam's massive smuggling activities. The Bush administration's proposal would shift the enforcement burden away from the U.N. and onto Iraq's neighbors and try to shut down illegal trade by buying the cooperation of those states through which it would have to pass -- Jordan, Syria, Turkey, Iran, and the members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates). The problem is that all these countries profit from the smuggling, all have populations opposed to enforcing the sanctions, and all except the GCC and Iran are now highly vulnerable to Iraqi economic pressure. So no matter what they may say publicly, none of them is likely to help much in blocking the flow of oil, money, and contraband.

Saddam does not calculate risks in the same manner that advocates of deterrence rely upon in their arguments:

Nevertheless, Saddam has a number of pathologies that make deterring him unusually difficult. He is an inveterate gambler and risk-taker who regularly twists his calculation of the odds to suit his preferred course of action. He bases his calculations on assumptions that outsiders often find bizarre and has little understanding of the larger world. He is a solitary decision-maker who relies little on advice from others. And he has poor sources of information about matters outside Iraq, along with intelligence services that generally tell him what they believe he wants to hear. These pathologies lie behind the many terrible miscalculations Saddam has made over the years that flew in the face of deterrence -- including the invasion of Iran in 1980, the invasion of Kuwait in 1990, the decision to fight for Kuwait in 1990-91, and the decision to threaten Kuwait again in 1994.

It is thus impossible to predict the kind of calculations he would make about the willingness of the United States to challenge him once he had the ability to incinerate Riyadh, Tel Aviv, or the Saudi oil fields. He might well make another grab for Kuwait, for example, and once in possession dare the United States to evict him and risk a nuclear exchange. During the Cold War, U.S. strategists used to fret that once the Soviet Union reached strategic parity, Moscow would feel free to employ its conventional forces as it saw fit because the United States would be too scared of escalation to respond. Such fears were plausible in the abstract but seem to have been groundless because Soviet leaders were fundamentally conservative decision-makers. Saddam, in contrast, is fundamentally aggressive and risk-acceptant. Leaving him free to acquire nuclear weapons and then hoping that in spite of his track record he can be deterred this time around is not the kind of social science experiment the United States government should be willing to run.

The rest of the article goes on to describe the many differences between the Taliban regime and Saddam's regime and why an attack patterned after the attack on the Taliban would not overthrow Saddam.

By Randall Parker    2002 September 27 02:22 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2002 September 26 Thursday
Kenneth Pollack: Why Iraq Can't Be Deterred

Kenneth Pollack, former National Security Council official in the Clinton Administration, has a new book just out entitled The Threatening Storm which is about Iraq and the necessity of taking out Saddam's regime. Pollack also has a column in the NY Times today entitled Why Iraq Can't Be Deterred:

But what they overlook is that Mr. Hussein is often unintentionally suicidal — that is, he miscalculates his odds of success and frequently ignores the likelihood of catastrophic failure. Mr. Hussein is a risk-taker who plays dangerous games without realizing how dangerous they truly are. He is deeply ignorant of the outside world and surrounded by sycophants who tell him what he wants to hear.

When Yevgeny M. Primakov, a Soviet envoy, went to Baghdad in 1991 to try to warn Mr. Hussein to withdraw, he was amazed to find out how cut off from reality Mr. Hussein was. "I realized that it was possible Saddam did not have complete information," he later wrote. "He gave priority to positive reports . . . and as for bad news, the bearer could pay a high price." These factors make Mr. Hussein difficult to deter, because his calculations are based on ideas that do not necessarily correspond to reality and are often impervious to outside influences.

Stanley Kurtz finds much to agree with in Pollack's book:

The frightening scenario described by Pollack, in which Saddam could seize Kuwait and threaten to nuke the Saudi oil fields if we attack, is something I've never seen publicly discussed. But as Pollack lays it out, the scenario is all too realistic. A nuclear-armed Saddam taking over Kuwait and threatening Saudi Arabia leaves us with a choice between ceding him control of the world's oil supply, or of seeing that supply destroyed and contaminated for decades by a nuclear strike, sending the world's economy into radical shock, perhaps for years.

You might not believe that Saddam Hussein would dare to contemplate such an action, given all the attention now focused on him. Read this book, and I wager you'll think differently. Saddam, as Pollack shows, "is generally not deterred by the threat of sustaining severe damage." Instead, he has a "tendency to invent outlandish scenarios that allow him to do whatever it is he wants to do, no matter how dangerous." Again, these generalization become real in Pollack's book. For example, even though Iran had again and again demonstrated its superior ability to harm Iraq with retaliatory missile strikes, Saddam nonetheless repeatedly ordered air and missile strikes against Iranian cities. This was a clear breakdown of ordinary "rational" deterrence.

Kurtz's previous article points out that Saddam has also done other things that the threat of retaliation should have deterred him from in the first place:

It is often said by those who believe that the principle of deterrence will suffice to contain Saddam that he is rational enough not to do anything that could bring down the might of the United States upon his head. But why then did he attempt to assassinate former President Bush? Revenge, of course. But why would Saddam have risked bringing on his own destruction, as a successful assassination attempt against even a former president well might have?

(latest Kurtz article reference found on Little Green Footballs)

By Randall Parker    2002 September 26 06:06 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (1)
2002 September 20 Friday
The National Security Strategy of the United States of America

You can read the full text of the President's report to Congress in HTML here which is across multiple HTML pages. Or you can get the PDF version here.

Here's the key portion of Section V that lays out the preemption strategy:

We must be prepared to stop rogue states and their terrorist clients before they are able to threaten or use weapons of mass destruction against the United States and our allies and friends. Our response must take full advantage of strengthened alliances, the establishment of new partnerships with former adversaries, innovation in the use of military forces, modern technologies, including the development of an effective missile defense system, and increased emphasis on intelligence collection and analysis.

Our comprehensive strategy to combat WMD includes:

  • Proactive counterproliferation efforts. We must deter and defend against the threat before it is unleashed. We must ensure that key capabilities—detection, active and passive defenses, and counterforce capabilities—are integrated into our defense transformation and our homeland security systems. Counterproliferation must also be integrated into the doctrine, training, and equipping of our forces and those of our allies to ensure that we can prevail in any conflict with WMD-armed adversaries.
  • Strengthened nonproliferation efforts to prevent rogue states and terrorists from acquiring the materials, technologies, and expertise necessary for weapons of mass destruction. We will enhance diplomacy, arms control, multilateral export controls, and threat reduction assistance that impede states and terrorists seeking WMD, and when necessary, interdict enabling technologies and materials. We will continue to build coalitions to support these efforts, encouraging their increased political and financial support for nonproliferation and threat reduction programs. The recent G-8 agreement to commit up to $20 billion to a global partnership against proliferation marks a major step forward.
  • Effective consequence management to respond to the effects of WMD use, whether by terrorists or hostile states. Minimizing the effects of WMD use against our people will help deter those who possess such weapons and dissuade those who seek to acquire them by persuading enemies that they cannot attain their desired ends. The United States must also be prepared to respond to the effects of WMD use against our forces abroad, and to help friends and allies if they are attacked.

It has taken almost a decade for us to comprehend the true nature of this new threat. Given the goals of rogue states and terrorists, the United States can no longer solely rely on a reactive posture as we have in the past. The inability to deter a potential attacker, the immediacy of today’s threats, and the magnitude of potential harm that could be caused by our adversaries’ choice of weapons, do not permit that option. We cannot let our enemies strike first.

In the Cold War, especially following the Cuban missile crisis, we faced a generally status quo, risk-averse adversary. Deterrence was an effective defense. But deterrence based only upon the threat of retaliation is less likely to work against leaders of rogue states more willing to take risks, gambling with the lives of their people, and the wealth of their nations.

  • In the Cold War, weapons of mass destruction were considered weapons of last resort whose use risked the destruction of those who used them. Today, our enemies see weapons of mass destruction as weapons of choice. For rogue states these weapons are tools of intimidation and military aggression against their neighbors. These weapons may also allow these states to attempt to blackmail the United States and our allies to prevent us from deterring or repelling the aggressive behavior of rogue states. Such states also see these weapons as their best means of overcoming the conventional superiority of the United States.
  • Traditional concepts of deterrence will not work against a terrorist enemy whose avowed tactics are wanton destruction and the targeting of innocents; whose so-called soldiers seek martyrdom in death and whose most potent protection is statelessness. The overlap between states that sponsor terror and those that pursue WMD compels us to action.

For centuries, international law recognized that nations need not suffer an attack before they can lawfully take action to defend themselves against forces that present an imminent danger of attack. Legal scholars and international jurists often conditioned the legitimacy of preemption on the existence of an imminent threat—most often a visible mobilization of armies, navies, and air forces preparing to attack.

We must adapt the concept of imminent threat to the capabilities and objectives of today’s adversaries. Rogue states and terrorists do not seek to attack us using conventional means. They know such attacks would fail. Instead, they rely on acts of terror and, potentially, the use of weapons of mass destruction—weapons that can be easily concealed, delivered covertly, and used without warning.

The targets of these attacks are our military forces and our civilian population, in direct violation of one of the principal norms of the law of warfare. As was demonstrated by the losses on September 11, 2001, mass civilian casualties is the specific objective of terrorists and these losses would be exponentially more severe if terrorists acquired and used weapons of mass destruction.

The United States has long maintained the option of preemptive actions to counter a sufficient threat to our national security. The greater the threat, the greater is the risk of inaction— and the more compelling the case for taking anticipatory action to defend ourselves, even if uncertainty remains as to the time and place of the enemy’s attack. To forestall or prevent such hostile acts by our adversaries, the United States will, if necessary, act preemptively.

The United States will not use force in all cases to preempt emerging threats, nor should nations use preemption as a pretext for aggression. Yet in an age where the enemies of civilization openly and actively seek the world’s most destructive technologies, the United States cannot remain idle while dangers gather.

We will always proceed deliberately, weighing the consequences of our actions. To support preemptive options, we will:

  • build better, more integrated intelligence capabilities to provide timely, accurate information on threats, wherever they may emerge;
  • coordinate closely with allies to form a common assessment of the most dangerous threats; and
  • continue to transform our military forces to ensure our ability to conduct rapid and precise operations to achieve decisive results.

The purpose of our actions will always be to eliminate a specific threat to the United States or our allies and friends. The reasons for our actions will be clear, the force measured, and the cause just.

By Randall Parker    2002 September 20 10:04 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (1)
Bush Administration articulates preemption strategy

Excerpts from a new Bush Administration report to Congress "The National Security Strategy of the United States":

It sketches out a far more muscular and sometimes aggressive approach to national security than any since the Reagan era. It includes the discounting of most non-proliferation treaties in favor of a doctrine of "counterproliferation," a reference to everything from missile defense to forcibly dismantling weapons or their components. It declares that the strategies of containment and deterrence -- staples of U.S. policy since the 1940s -- are all but dead. There is no way in this changed world, the document states, to deter those who "hate the United States and everything for which it stands."

"America is now threatened less by conquering states than we are by failing ones," the document states, sounding what amounts to a death knell for many of the key strategies of the Cold War.

One of the most striking elements of the new strategy document is its insistence "that the president has no intention of allowing any foreign power to catch up with the huge lead the United States has opened since the fall of the Soviet Union more than a decade ago."

Once the full document becomes available on-line I'll provide a link to it.

By Randall Parker    2002 September 20 01:55 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2002 September 19 Thursday
Jane Galt says Saddam doesn't think like us

Hitler wouldn't have done what he did if Hitler had reasoned at all like how deterrent advocates expect a nuclear-armed Saddam will react to the US:

The other point is that you cannot count on knowing what calculations the other side is making. If you had put the choices Germany faced in front of almost any American citizen, they would probably have turned back at Poland. Certainly, they wouldn't have declared war on the USSR. Yet Hitler clearly didn't feel that way. Betting the farm on his "rationality" by, say, declaring war on Russia, would have crushed us.

So that's why I'm suspicious of upper-middle class professionals who say "Saddaam is rational, therefore he will choose to do X if we do Y". And you know this because of your extensive experience as an Iraqi dictator? His operating environment is different from yours. You do not know what he is thinking. So it is fundamentally dangerous to assume that you can predict how he will act.

Counting on a brutal deluded dictator's rationality to restrain him does not seem prudent. When Saddam's ex-mistress described how upset Saddam was to lose Kuwait and how much he didn't expect to lose it that struck me as a strong warning that we can't expect him to do things that make sense according to our reckoning of what choices are sensible.

By Randall Parker    2002 September 19 02:15 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2002 September 17 Tuesday
Stanley Kurtz on the US Military's Unspoken Fears

Stanley Kurtz believes the US military is unwilling to state publically the military's real source of reluctance to take on Iraq:

What has not been recognized, in other words, is the extent to which Saddam's possession of weapons of mass destruction has already changed the power equation in the Middle East — to the point where the American military itself is reluctant to take on Iraq. In fact, even if America's allies in the region give us the basing to accommodate a Gulf War style build up of a vast invading force (and in truth, we can no longer count on such basing), a slow massing of forces may no longer be a secure way to proceed — simply because our forces would be vulnerable to chemical and biological attack. And that is the real reason, I suspect, why the Pentagon hawks are so intent on moving in quickly, with as small a force as possible. A quick strike by a small force greatly reduces our vulnerability to WMD attack.

Kurtz sees a sort of cascading disaster scenario if we back down now out of fear of Saddam's existing stockpile of biological and chemical weapons:

Indeed, if the administration backs down now, and refuses to invade Iraq after all it has said, then Saddam will know that his weapons of mass destruction have succeeded in scaring us off. If that happens, then not only Saddam, but every tin-pot dictator in the world, will be in a race to obtain WMD sufficient to neutralize the vast might of America's military machine. It won't even be necessary to have intercontinental missiles — only the wherewithal to deliver chemical and biological weapons against a local American force.

Technological advances can very rapidly upset the balance of forces upon with civilization in a particular era have come to depend. It is reasonable to think that the stability of the world can be suddenly and drastically undermined if the right sorts of technology get into the hands of the wrong sorts of regimes. The stability of civilization is far more precarious than it outwardly appears.

By Randall Parker    2002 September 17 03:43 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2002 September 16 Monday
Proliferation, Deterrence and Preemption

The biggest foreign policy question the United States and its allies face today is whether the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) must be stopped by use of military force. Can deterrence serve as a sufficient strategy to deal with the otherwise inevitable spread of nuclear weapons and other WMD to more regimes?

This question is not being debated in public with sufficient clarity (though one suspects there is considerable clarity in the secret discussions of the Bush Administration). Stanley Kurtz examines why this is the case in his most recent article Brave New World: Why We Must Invade Iraq in The National Review Online. He describes arguments that Marc Trachtenberg has made in the Fall 2002 issue of The National Interest:

As Trachtenberg points out, in a world where everyone has nuclear weapons, the balance of terror cuts two ways. On the one hand, it makes states reluctant to come to blows. On the other hand, just because of its intimidating effects, the balance of terror rewards those who are willing to bring themselves up to the brink (on the assumption that potential foes will be scared off by the prospect of a nuclear exchange). In the current world, the boldness of state action is constrained by relative conventional military power. But in a world where conventional military might has been rendered irrelevant (because everyone has the bomb), it's those with the will to take risks who will prosper (so long as they don't actually step over the line and provoke a nuclear exchange). And eventually, of course, someone will step over the line — (mis)calculating that their foes will simply accept some aggressive action (say, an invasion of Kuwait), out of fear of escalation to a nuclear exchange.

While Trachtenberg's full article does not appear to be on-line you can find what appears to be an excerpt on their site. Entitled Waltzing To Armageddon?, it makes for sobering reading:

Each side might be afraid of escalation, but those fears are balanced by the knowledge that one’s adversary is also afraid, and his fears can be exploited. In the case of a conflict between two nuclear powers, if either side believed that Waltz’s analysis was correct--if either side believed that its adversary would give way rather than run any risk of nuclear attack, as long as his vital interests were not threatened--there would be no reason for that country not to take advantage of that situation. That side could threaten its adversary with nuclear attack if its demands were not met in the firm belief that its opponent was bound to give way, and that it would therefore not be running any risk itself. That belief might turn out to be correct, but if it were not--if its rival was unwilling to allow it to score such an easy victory--there could be very serious trouble indeed. And if both sides were convinced by Waltz’s arguments, and both adopted strong deterrent strategies, the situation would be particularly dangerous. Each side would dig in its heels, convinced that when confronted with the risk of nuclear war, the other side would ultimately back down. Such a situation could quickly get out of hand. As Dean Rusk pointed out in 1961, "one of the quickest ways to have a nuclear war is to have the two sides persuaded that neither will fight."

By Randall Parker    2002 September 16 06:35 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
Peter Preston goes half way on proliferation problem

Writing in The Guardian Peter Preston seems to start to get the scope of the problem of nuclear proliferation:

Let's be grimly clear-headed here. The more nukes there are around, the more likely it is that some Bin Laden figure will get hold of them. And the more countries who have nuclear weapons in unstable parts of the world - a mad MAD world - the likelier they are to be used by accident or design.

But it is not individual dictators, scurrying from bunker to bunker, who are the true problem. (Saddam is a cautious, cringing old conservative when it comes to risk-taking for himself.) The problem is the weapons themselves. Conventions against biological and chemical threats begin at home, in the homeland. Nuclear non-proliferation picks up where Mr Bush and Mr Blair - and their four unhelpful little words - leave off.

But in the second paragraph he appears to draw back from the logical conclusion: Saddam is only part of the problem but he really is part of the problem. There are a whole list of non-democratic, anti-Western, and repressive regimes that are trying to get technology to develop nukes and which are willing to help each other get supporting technologies and other technologies useful for the development of other types of Weapons Of Mass Destruction (four very helpful words). Therefore if we are gong to follow a strategy of preemption then we have to start somewhere and it might as well be with Saddam.

Here we run into the moral equivalency arguments of the Left. Is the problem with nukes that they are in the hands of stable Western democracies and, parenthetically, managed with rigorous security and carefully designed command and control systems? Mr. Preston would apparently have us think so. He sees no need to draw moral distinctions between, say, Britain's possession of the bomb and the prospects of Saddam's eventual possession of same. But are those nukes in the hands of the UK government really causing nuclear proliferation? Hello? Can the Left be serious? Is that asking too much? Or does their resentment of their own societies and of the US of A just prevent them from thinking rationally about this subject?

Are we to begin at home to control the proliferation of WMD by destroying our stocks in hopes that Saddam Hussein will be so emotionally choked up by our magnanimous gesture that he will decide to abandon his own WMD programs, destroy his chemical and bioweapons stocks, and perhaps even hold free elections, establish an independent judiciary, and allow freedom of speech and press?

What is lacking in the editorial pages of the Guardian is any sign of serious thought about what to do about the proliferation of WMD to unstable, hostile, and dangerous regimes. Bush and Blair have a strategy: Preemption. Invade the proliferating countries and remove the regimes that pursue WMD development. Its expensive and comes with a cost in human life. But its a strategy that will work. Do the editors and columnists of The Guardian have a strategy that will work? If so, lets hear it.

By Randall Parker    2002 September 16 01:47 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
George Tenet on secondary proliferators

Where does the doctrine of preemption come from? The world faces two choices:
• Proliferation of weapons of mass destruction to many regimes in the Middle East and elsewhere.
• Preemptive military action to stop their spread.

There is no third choice. No international treaty or UN resolution will do anything to slow down the trend. The countries that want to develop WMD do not think international law or UN resolutions matter much. Technology export controls by First World countries will be to little avail because secondary proliferators are feeding the spread of weapons technologies.

CIA Director George Tenet, speaking on 3 February 2000 before the US Senate Committee on Armed Services, had a lot to say about missile and nuclear technology proliferation from emerging secondary suppliers:

Mr. Chairman, another sign that WMD programs are maturing is the emergence of secondary suppliers of weapons technology.

While Russia, China, and North Korea continue to be the main suppliers of ballistic missiles and related technology, long-standing recipients—such as Iran—might become suppliers in their own right as they develop domestic production capabilities. Other countries that today import missile-related technology, such as Syria and Iraq, also may emerge in the next few years as suppliers.

Over the near term, we expect that most of their exports will be of shorter range ballistic missile-related equipment, components, and materials. But, as their domestic infrastructures and expertise develop, they will be able to offer a broader range of technologies that could include longer-range missiles and related technology.

  • Iran in the next few years may be able to supply not only complete Scuds, but also Shahab-3s and related technology, and perhaps even more-advanced
    technologies if Tehran continues to receive assistance from Russia, China, and North Korea.

Mr. Chairman, the problem may not be limited to missile sales; we also remain very concerned that new or nontraditional nuclear suppliers could emerge from this same pool.

This brings me to a new area of discussion: that more than ever we risk substantial surprise. This is not for a lack of effort on the part of the Intelligence Community; it results from significant effort on the part of proliferators.

There are four main reasons. First and most important, proliferators are showing greater proficiency in the use of denial and deception.

Second, the growing availability of dual-use technologies—including guidance and control equipment, electronic test equipment, and specialty materials—is making it easier for proliferators to obtain the materials they need.

  • The dual-use dilemma is a particularly vexing problem as we seek to detect and combat biological warfare programs, in part because of the substantial overlap between BW agents and legitimate vaccines. About a dozen countries either have offensive BW programs or are pursuing them. Some want to use them against regional adversaries, but others see them as a way to counter overwhelming US and Western conventional superiority.

Third, the potential for surprise is exacerbated by the growing capacity of countries seeking WMD to import talent that can help them make dramatic leaps on things like new chemical and biological agents and delivery systems. In short, they can buy the expertise that confers the advantage of technological surprise.

Finally, the accelerating pace of technological progress makes information and technology easier to obtain and in more advanced forms than when the weapons were initially developed.

We are making progress against these problems, Mr. Chairman, but I must tell you that the hill is getting steeper every year.

By Randall Parker    2002 September 16 11:19 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2002 September 14 Saturday
John Hawkins: Confessions of an Isolationist Wannabe

While he doesn't flesh out the exact reasons why the world would go to hell-in-a-handbasket if the US became isolationist I agree with Hawkins' argument here:

So spare me your comparisons to Rome and understand that I don't want to hear about your secret fear that we might try to create a 'Vichy Europe" someday. We wouldn't take over the world if every nation begged us too. Our ancestors came to America in the first place to GET AWAY from everyone else in the world and it's very easy for us in this age of global communications to understand why. You have people protesting in France for shorter mandatory workweeks, Morocco and Spain fighting over a rock outcropping inhabited by goats, and the UN letting Gadaffi get elected as chair of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. You think we WANT to be forced to deal with those sorts of things any more than absolutely necessary? Take it from a hawkish right-winger who makes George Bush look like a bigger weenie than Jimmy Carter, we're not an 'empire' and we have no desire to become one.

It is just a matter of time before suborbital aircraft put all major cities in the world just 3 or 4 hours away from each other. Communications and transport costs will continue to fall while technological advances make it increasingly easy for even non-governmental groups to develop and deliver weapons of mass destruction (WMD). We can't protect ourselves at home. We can only protect ourselves abroad. Even with a considerable amount of involvement in the world we are still going to be at increasing risk of attacks by terrorists using WMD.

The isolationist argument is that if we did not have troops stationed abroad then, for instance, the people in the Middle East wouldn't have as much hatred and resentment of the US. But here's the rub: it doesn't take that many of them to have that hatred and to desire to act on it to cause us big losses of life and property. So could we withdraw from all our military bases abroad without a loss in security? It seems like an awfully large risk to run. The risk is greatly magnified if regimes over there are free to run programs to develop WMD.

We were far more isolationist in the 1930s. The historical lesson from that experience is that it was a bad idea for us and for the rest of the world. Is that still a valid lesson? Well, the US relies on trade with other countries much more today than it did then. At the same time, those distant places are closer now and technological advances are making them closer every day. That means our affairs are more intertwined with theirs and the rises and falls of their fortunes affect our own security, economy, and well being than was the case then. Plus, the threat that WMD pose is growing and world with WMD in the hands of nasty dictators and private groups is not a world that is safe for Americans.

By Randall Parker    2002 September 14 04:33 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2002 September 12 Thursday
Why is Henry Kissinger interpreted in so many ways?

From the UK Spectator comes a humorous analysis by Frank Johnson of the mind and opinions and intent of Henry Kissinger:

The incident emphasises again the West’s difficulty in knowing what to do about Dr Kissinger. There is little doubt that he possesses opinions. The question, as it has always been, is whether he is prepared to use them. True, he seems to have some sort of delivery system. Certainly, he was able to hit the front page of the New York Times with an opinion. The issue: what was it? Pro-war or anti-war? This will not be known for sure until he opens his article to unrestricted UN inspectors. Even then, we may not to be sure. Inspectors who favour war will say that the article favours it, and vice versa.

Many of us do not mind admitting that we do not know how to deal with this troublesome figure. It is all very well to say that his opinions pose no direct threat to the United States. The fact remains that they can reach Europe. There, they could cause untold damage. But that depends on whether he makes clear what his opinions are.

This is inspired by an opinion piece that Dr. Kissinger wrote in the Washington Post. People with a variety of positions in the Iraq debate found things in it that they felt confirmed their positions (the NY Times misrepresented Kissinger's views on its front page). Lots of people jumped in to interpret Kissinger's words and motive. But its hard to see what all the fuss is about. Kissinger makes his views very clear on the key issue of whether deterrence and retaliation are sufficient to deal with attacks commited by nation-states and terrorist groups in this era. First, Kissinger establishes the historical origins of the existing international law:

The new approach is revolu­tionary. Regime change as a goal for military intervention challenges the international system established by the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia, which after the carnage of the religious wars, established the principle of non-intervention in the domestic affairs of other states. And the notion of justified preemption runs counter to modern interna­tional law, which sanctions the use of force in self-defense only against actual, not potential, threats.

Then he proceeds to explain why the current international law rules about just war have been obsolesced by a combination of technological advances and the rise of transnational groups:

The international regimen follo­wing the Treaty of Westphalia was based on the concept of an imper­meable nation-state and a limited military technology which gene­rally permitted a nation to run the risk of awaiting an unambiguous challenge.

But the terrorist threat transcends the nation-state; it derives in large part from the transnational groups that, if they acquire weapons of mass destruction, could inflict catastrophic, even irretrievable, damage. That threat is compounded when these weapons are being built in direct violation of UN resolu­tions by a ruthless autocrat who sought to annex one of his neigh­bors and attacked another, with a demonstrated record of hostility toward America and the existing international system. The case is all the stronger because Saddam expelled UN inspectors installed as part of the settlement of the Gulf War and has used these weapons both against his own population and against a foreign adversary.

This is why policies that deterred the Soviet Union for 50 years are unlikely to work against Iraq’s capacity to cooperate with terrorist groups.

The most important thing to notice is that Kissinger does not take the position that we should be restrained by the international law arguments. He argues that preemption is such a necessary strategy that in certain instances the need to pursue a strategy of preemption is absolute:

The imminence of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the huge dangers it involves, the rejection of a viable inspection system, the demons­trated hostility of Saddam combine to produce an imperative for preemptive action.

Note that he uses the word imperative to describe the need for preemptive action. This is key. The first definition of imperative from the Random House Dictionary Of The English Language:

absolutely necessary or required; unavoidable: It is imperative that we leave.

Now, Kissinger inserts qualifiers (read the full article) about how the US should conduct its diplomacy and how it might be able to eliminate the threat from Iraq without an invasion. He is a diplomat after all and cares about such things. But the most important issue in this debate isn't about which diplomatic tactics may be wisest in the run-up to an attack on the Iraqi regime. The most important issue is whether technological advances, by making the creation of weapons of mass destruction too easy, are helping to create conditions in which preemption is an imperative strategy. On this most crucial question it is gratifying that Kissinger is willing to state publically that preemption is necessary.

By Randall Parker    2002 September 12 12:47 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2002 September 10 Tuesday
UK Guardian: Nuclear Proliferation and Moral Legitimacy

Zoe Williams writing in The Guardian believes that nuclear proliferation is no big deal and nuclear war is nothing to fear:

And now, Tony Blair would have us believe that deterrence doesn't work after all; that the existence of nuclear weaponry on the wishlist of an unfriendly nation is reason enough to launch a pre-emptive strike; that nuclear war is so bad as to be outside the bounds of reason. Well, it's a nice try - but so passé.

Are we to believe then that nuclear war is not so bad or that or that it is within the bounds of reason to think it might happen? Its difficult to figure out where she's going with this. But an earlier portion of her essay hints where the real problem lies: the Left resists drawing moral distinctions about who has nuclear weapons and who doesn't:

Except we aren't - in this country, at least, the right and "left" of our political spectrum have spent the past 30 years persuading us that nuclear weapons aren't a bad thing, unless you don't have any. They didn't so much cry wolf, as insist the wolf was actually quite a nice bloke. They're going to have quite a job getting us all to play Red Riding Hood.

She proceeds to quote Michael Heseltine's argument for nuclear weapons as embodying the right to self defense:

Asked how he triumphed over the peace movement, he replied: "By changing the questions. So long as the questions were about cruise missiles, the peace movement always won; if the questions changed to 'Do you want to be totally undefended?', then the ground shifted."

The disarmament advocates of the Left were of course incensed that this argument worked. How dare the masses of a free nation decide that they even needed to be defended against a socialist republic ruled by the vanguard of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Yes, we wanted to be defended against the socialists.

So where is Zoe Williams coming from? The Left, having failed to win the argument for disarmament decided to take satisfaction from the fact that at least in one sense the deterrence relationship equalized the West and the Soviet Union. We and the USSR were locked in a game where we had to treat each other as equal great powers. Nuclear weapons, in effect, forced the capitalistic West to treat the Soviet Union with more respect.

Should the West have followed the disarmament movement's advice and unilaterally dismantled its nuclear weapons while the Soviet Union retained its arsenal? If you hold that the West was vastly morally superior to the Soviet Union then unilateral disarmament would seem like a really bad idea. Nuclear weapons in our hands deterred an opponent intent upon evil goals. But if you are so far out on the Left that the USSR didn't look that bad to you and your own society seemed evil because of its capitalistic institutions then the nuclear deterrence forces of the West did not look like they were being used to protect the good from the bad. The far Left, faced with the continued existence of Western nuclear arsenals, eventually decided there was a silver lining: the mutual deterrence relationship between the West and the Soviet Union prevented the West from treating the Soviet Union as inferior. Hence we see today a sort of nostalgia among the Left for the old Cold War deterrence relationship and for the logic of deterrence.

Its important to recall why we in the West adopted deterrence as a strategy: there was literally no alternative. An attack on the Soviet Union would have cost us enormously in tens or hundreds of millions of lives lost with commensurate economic damage. The pacifist choice of unilateral disarmament would have led to our subjugation by our enemy. We were fully justified in our deterrence strategy because it was the one way we the good guys could hold off the bad guys.

Fast forward to today. What to do about Iraq is the issue of the hour. Is deterrence best choice compared to the other choices that are available? The answer to that question should hinge on what the other choices are. Since Iraq is a much weaker nation and does not yet possess nuclear weapons we have choices that were not available during the Cold War. We can choose courses of action that reduce our risk of being victims of nuclear attack but those choices involve our attacking and overthrowing some of our enemies. For Zoe Williams the unstated reason she doesn't think these other choices are acceptable is because deep down she doesn't think the United States of America has sufficient moral legitimacy to justify its use of preemptive military action in its own defense.

If we are not morally superior to a totalitarian dictator then we lack the moral standing to assert that we have the right to deny him his opportunity to develop nuclear weapons. If we are not morally superior then we can't make a moral argument to justify action to avoid getting locked in a deterrence relationship with him based on mutual assured destruction. The beauty of such a relationship for someone who hates their own society is that it equalizes that society in relation to its enemies. Our enemies can destroy us just as we can destroy them. We can no more overthrow their government than they can overthrow ours. For someone who does not see us as the good guys against Saddam as a really bad guy such a state of affairs would naturally have some appeal. It would in a sense bring us down to Saddam's level.

The question of deterrence vs preemption is really a moral question: Are we so morally superior to our enemies that we are morally justified in using military force to prevent our enemies from developing nuclear weapons that would then force us into deterrence MAD relationships with them? I say Yes. What about you?

By Randall Parker    2002 September 10 11:42 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2002 September 05 Thursday
Questions for opponents of war against Saddam

For those who are opposed to a war to topple Saddam I have a question. What do you favor as an alternative? As I see it your three choices are:

A) Wait till Saddam's nuclear weapons development program is closer to fruition before attacking.

B) Wait till Saddam demonstrates a nuclear device or claims to have one. Then attack.

C) Let Saddam get nukes. Accept Saddam's regime as a nuclear power.

D) Wield a magical international power wand to change Saddam's mind and convince him to abandon his WMD programs.

I can't imagine how the opponents can seriously support option A. Option A accepts the inevitability of the attack. It just puts it off for no advantage.

Option B seems even worse than option A. Better to attack sooner and not face the prospect of his responding with nuclear weapons.

So it seems to me that the opponents are really in favor of option C. There is no option D. The "international community" is not going to use some magical international power wand to prevent him from developing nuclear weapons. There are no additional means of persuasion that can be trotted out that have not already been tried.

So then once Saddam has nukes what do the opponents think we should do? Here are your possibilities:

1) Don't worry about it. What, me worry?

2) Threaten Saddam with a nuclear attack against Iraq if he uses WMD against US friends and allies.

3) More broadly threaten Saddam with nuclear attack against Iraq if he attacks any other country with WMD.

In order for deterrence to work threats have to be credible. The opponents of war against Saddam can't state that they support deterrence and then state that they would be opposed to a nuclear counterstrike in the event that Saddam nukes Israel or a Saudi or Iranian or Turkish city. Without a credible threat of retaliation there is no deterrence and then option 1 is really the position that is being advocated.

Of course, unless we pursued option 3 and did do very credibly the neighbors would decide that they needed their own nukes in order to deter Saddam. Its not even clear that we can credibly pursue option 3. We'd have to convince the Iranian mullahs (among others) that we'd be willing to nuke Iraqi cities in event that Saddam nukes Iranian cities. If you were them would you believe us? I can think of lots of reasons for them to have serious doubts, not least that our top leadership changes and not all of our leaders are equally willing to exercise American power in such a manner.

Also, suppose we were preparing to nuke an Iraqi city in response to Saddam's nuking an Iranian city and then Saddam claimed he had smuggled a nuke into an American city that he would detonate if we retaliated for his strike against Iran. Well, what would an American President do in that situation?

But wait, this is not the only scenario where our decisions are not easy to make. Suppose Saddam just sends a threatening read-between-the-lines letter to the Saudis or the Iranians (it would be hard to imagine him not doing this). Should we nuke Iraq then? The neighbors are going to be intimidated and blackmailable even before one of their cities goes up in a mushroom cloud. So what to do about the inevitable intimidation?

In a later post I'm going to explore the problems with deterrence by threat of retaliation in the modern era. But for now I think it is safe to conclude that the opponents of overthrow of hostile regimes developing WMD are really willing to accept WMD in the hands of these regimes. Whether they are willing to then pursue a credible deterrence strategy is not clear.

By Randall Parker    2002 September 05 12:32 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (3)
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