1848 in the Middle East

Ever since the fall of Louis Philippe’s July Monarchy set off a round of sympathetic insurrections in Europe, revolutions have tended to appear in waves.  The recent uprisings in the Middle East are no exception.  The reaction to them among liberals and conservatives will be familiar to anyone who experienced the cold war.  In those days, conservatives tended to support “anti-Communist” dictators against popular uprisings, and liberals tended to support the “democratic movements” against these “corrupt dictators,” even if their leaders happened to be Pol Pot or Ho chi Minh.  Now, thanks to the Internet and other modern means of spreading the word, the related narratives on the left and right are similar, but more uniform, pervasive, and predictable than ever. 

In the case of Egypt, for example, conservatives seldom write anything concerning recent events there without raising the specter of the Muslim Brotherhood.  Liberals, on the other hand, are cheering on the insurgency, scoffing at the suggestion that it could ever be hijacked by Islamist radicals.  For the most part, the proponents of the two narratives possess little or no reliable information on the balance of political forces in Egypt, and certainly not enough to support the level of certainty with which they represent their points of view.  As with earlier revolutions, the notion that even the best informed human beings are sufficiently intelligent to reliably predict the eventual outcome is merely another one of our pleasant delusions. 

In fact, the belief of the vast majority of those on either side of the issue that the point of view they support with such zeal was arrived at independently via the exercise of their own intellectual powers is also a delusion.  The utter sameness of these “independent opinions,” as like to each other as so many peas in a pod, and their almost inevitable association with an assortment of other “independent opinions” of like nature, demonstrate their real character as ideological shibboleths that define the current intellectual territory of the in-groups of the left and the right. 

What, then, of Egypt?  Who can say?  The political history of the Middle East, the rarity and evanescence of democratic governments in the region, the traditional role of the military as a quasi-political party holding all the trump cards, and the lack of experience in or ideological attachment to popular government do not encourage optimism that a modern democratic government will emerge from the current chaos.  Still, as noted above, none of us has the intellectual horsepower to predict with certainty what will happen, although of all the guesses being made, some of them will surely be lucky.  One can only suggest to the Egyptian people that, given the outcome of some of the other “popular movements” that were greeted with similar euphoria during the past century, it would behoove them to be very careful whom they allow to lead them.

START and the Resurrection of the Reliable Replacement Warhead

The Reliable Replacement Warhead is a really bad idea that never seems to go away.  Congress has wisely condemned it, and it was explicitly rejected in the nation’s latest Nuclear Posture Review, but now the RRW has popped up again, artificially linked to the New Start arms control treaty, in a couple of opeds, one in the New York Times by former UN ambassador John Bolton, and another in the Wall Street Journal by R. James Woolsey, former arms control negotiator and Director of the CIA.  Bolton writes, “Congress should pass a new law financing the testing and development of new warhead designs before approving New Start,” and Woolsey chimes in,

…the administration needs to commit to replacing and modernizing our aging nuclear infrastructure as well as the bombers, submarines and ballistic missiles – and the warheads on them – that provide our ultimate guarantee of national security. The Senate’s resolution of ratification should, for example, require the president to commit to specific modernization plans so we can be sure these programs will have his full support. The administration has particularly resisted warhead modernization, beginning with its Nuclear Posture Review last year. This led 10 former directors of the nation’s nuclear weapons labs to write to the secretaries of Defense and Energy urging them to revisit that misguided policy. The secretaries should commit to doing so.

In fact, one hopes they have enough sense not to follow that advice.  What Bolton and Woolsey are referring to when they speak of “modernizing” weapons isn’t the continued refurbishment of old weapons, or the adding of new conventional packaging around them, as in the case of the B61-11, to make them more effective for earth penetration or some other specific mission.  They are speaking of a new design of the nuclear device itself.  At the moment, the RRW is the only player in that game.

Going ahead with the RRW would be self-destructive at a number of levels.  In the first place, it’s unnecessary.  There is no reason to doubt the safety and reliability of the existing weapons in our arsenal, nor our ability to maintain them into the indefinite future.  A reason given for building the RRW is that low yield versions could be designed that would be “more effective deterrents,” because enemies would consider it a lot more likely that we would actually use such a weapon against them, as opposed to our existing high yield weapons.  The problem with that logic is that they would be right.  Given the alacrity with which we went to war in Iraq, it is not hard to imagine that we would be sorely tempted to use a mini-nuke to take out, say, a buried and/or hardened enemy bunker suspected of containing WMD’s.  Any US first use of nuclear weapons, for whatever reason, and regardless of the chances of “collateral damage,” would be a disastrous mistake.  It would let the nuclear genie out of the bottle once again, serving as a perfect pretense for the use of nuclear weapons by others, and particularly by terrorists against us.  Those who think the Maginot line of nuclear detectors we are installing at our ports, or the imaginary difficulty of mastering the necessary technology, will protect us from such an eventuality, are gravely mistaken. 

The building of a new weapon design would also provide a fine excuse for others to modernize their own arsenals.  It is hard to imagine how this could work to the advantage of the United States.  Our nuclear technology is mature, and it would simply give the lesser nuclear powers a chance to catch up with us.  More importantly, it would almost inevitably imply a return to nuclear testing, thereby negating a tremendous advantage we now hold over every other nuclear power, namely, our above ground experimental (AGEX) capability.  In the National Ignition Facility at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the Z pulsed power machine at Sandia, the DAHRT radiographic test facility at Los Alamos, and a host of other experimental facilities, we possess an ability to study the physics that occurs in conditions near those in nuclear detonations that no other country comes close to matching.  It would be utterly pointless to throw that advantage away in order to build a new nuclear weapon we don’t need.

It does not surprise me that 10 former directors of the nation’s nuclear weapons laboratories signed a letter calling on the Secretaries of Energy and Defense to revisit our RRW policy.  It would certainly serve the interests of the nuclear weapons laboratories.  It is much easier to attract talented physicists to an active testing program than to serve as custodians of an aging stockpile, and new designs would mean new money, and the removal of any perceived existential threats to one or more of the existing labs on the basis of their redundancy.  The problem is that it would not serve the interests of the country. 

Let the RRW stay buried.  The nuclear genie will return soon enough as it is.

Bush? No, I Don’t Miss Him Yet

Oh, I agree, Obama seems inept, weak, and lacking in any detectable skills as a leader. But was Bush really all that much better? He certainly didn’t stop the cancerous growth of big government. He launched a completely unnecessary war of aggression in Iraq, freeing the country of a bloody dictator in the process. For that, most Iraqis are probably more or less as grateful as the journalist who threw his shoes at W. The war cost us and continues to cost us blood and treasure that we can ill afford. He got us into another war in Afghanistan that was certainly more justifiable, but failed to take the perfectly sound advice of Donald Rumsfeld to pack up and leave quickly when it was over. Instead, we embarked on a neocon’s wet dream of “nation building,” with the predictable result that we are still bogged down there, with the left and right in cordial agreement that we face almost inevitable defeat.

Other than that, as the recent “peace flotilla” stunt reminded us, he completely failed to understand the burgeoning threat of a resurgent and politicized Islam that has now become the main contender to fill the ideological vacuum left by the demise of Communism. The evidence is all still out there on the Internet. For example, he strongly backed Turkey’s entry into the EU, as can be seen in this story that appeared in the Washington Post back in October, 2006. Fortunately, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel had other ideas.  (Of course, the Turks, with one of the fastest growing economies in the world, are probably jumping for joy that they didn’t stumble into the EU’s economic black hole, but that’s another story.)  Read the article, and you’ll see how thoroughly Bush was bamboozled by Turkey’s Islamist prime minister Erdogan.  It was “in our interests” for the rapidly radicalizing Turks to become a part of Europe. The U.S. and its Turkish “strategic partner” were “focusing on ways to counter extremism.” Bush nodded sagely as Erdogan inveighed against the use of terms like “Islamic terrorism.”

In a word, I wouldn’t exactly put nostalgia for Bush in the U.S. in the same category as nostalgia for Stalin in Russia, but it still doesn’t make a lot of sense. The choice between Bush and Obama is basically the choice between being internationally hated or internationally despised.  Take your pick.

Palestinian “Victims” – Bill Maher Gets It

The dead tree media and the rest of the vanilla left used to support Israel – before they cleaned their enemy’s clocks in 1967 and 1973. That made it difficult to strike pious poses as Israel’s “saviors.” After all, the Jews could defend themselves. Ergo, they switched sides to the Palestinians, who made much better “victims.” If your whole ideology is about ostentatious displays of superior righteousness, that’s all that matters. There’s no more intellectual depth to their hatred of Israel than that. Once the “victim” was identified, rational analysis of the conflict became superfluous. All that remained was to rationalize a forgone conclusion, and indulge in the usual orgy of self-righteousness.

Of the Naval Treaty of 1922 and Novel Trends in British America Bashing

The BP debacle has spawned some previously untapped new variants of America bashing in the UK. Not that the British were remarkably behindhand in piling on during the worst of the latest climax in European anti-Americanism that reached its peak several years ago. It was so much the more surprising to learn in an article by Peter Hitchens that appeared on the website of the Daily Mail that his countrymen have been “fawning” on the United States. Of course, the citizens of our mother country are noted for their reserve, but I have visited many British websites and forums in recent years, and never discovered anything that it would ever occur to me to describe as “fawning.” Be that as it may, the Brits, like most Europeans, have remarkably thin skins. They have been dishing out abuse to America with the best of them for years, but, as their response to criticism over the BP affair demonstrates, they can’t take it.

Hitchens’ whining piece complaining about our “hostility” because our President dares to criticize a British company for unleashing the greatest environmental disaster in our history is a case in point. The author wears his paranoia on his sleeve. For example,

Americans may say they love our accents (I have been accused of sounding like Princess Di’) but the more thoughtful ones resent and rather dislike us as a nation and a people, as friends of mine have found out by being on the edge of conversations where Americans assumed no Englishmen were listening.

Perhaps it’s just that the “thoughtful” among my fellow countrymen have been hiding their opinions from me as well all these years, but I can honestly say that I can’t recall a single conversation in which the English were singled out for resentment and dislike, unless Hitchens is referring to George III. On the contrary, other than the occasional Irish Catholic with romantic notions about the IRA, Americans who pay any attention to the English at all tend to be Anglophiles.

Other than that, the article is filled with the usual bitching and moaning about America that we have long been accustomed to. There is one novelty that I haven’t seen elsewhere, perhaps because it is too far-fetched even for most Europeans. Quoting Hitchens,

It was American pressure that forced us out of the first rank of naval powers in the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922, which led to our defeat at Singapore 20 years later.

I had to laugh out loud when I read that bit. It assumes the reader is completely ignorant of the relevant history. In the first place, the treaty didn’t force Britain “out of the first rank of naval powers.” It established a ratio of 5-5-3 in fighting ships among the treaty powers England, the United States, and Japan, respectively. The British and U.S. navies were the most powerful in the world at the time. How, then, did the treaty force Britain “out of the first rank of naval powers?” In fact, the Naval Treaty of 1922 was one of the greatest triumphs of common sense over fear and hysteria in the annals of international relations. It ended a nascent arms race and was of great benefit to all the signatories, and not least to the British. At the time the Conference was called, the pound sterling was at its lowest point, British citizens were paying crippling taxes, and England was facing another period of naval expansion they could ill afford, forced on them by the building programs of the United States and Japan.

They owed the United States a massive debt, and every penny they paid would have directly benefited our building program. On paper, at least, we had already passed Britain in naval strength, and our superiority was only likely to increase. Recall that when countries such as Germany, France, the Netherlands, Spain, and even Denmark had challenged British sea power in the past, it had led to war with an England which felt her life menaced by rival naval powers. In fact, war with the United States was seriously contemplated at the time by many Englishmen as the only alternative to a ruined England and a disintegrated Empire.

In the upshot, the British delegates were delighted by the agreement, as well they should have been. A crippling arms race was avoided, and taxes were lowered. The treaty was of such obvious advantage to England that the prevailing sentiment in the US media was that we had been hoodwinked. They had good reason to feel that way. In 1920 the United States already had an advantage over England in tonnage of capital ships of 1,117, 850 to 808,200. Our advantage in battle guns was 340 to 284. As provided by the treaty, tonnages were reduced to 525,850, 558,950, and 301,320 for the United States, Great Britain and Japan, respectively, giving a slight advantage to the British. The very real and serious potential causes for war among the signatories were removed for many years into the future.

As for the treaty causing the British defeat at Singapore 20 years later, that claim has to take the cake for the most ludicrous of all the ludicrous charges directed against us from Europe in recent years. How, exactly, would crippling her economy by charging ahead with the building of a fleet of obsolete battleships have helped the British 20 years later? As anyone who knows anything about her situation in the years immediately preceding World War II is aware, the economic burden of rearmament in the face of the German threat was painful enough for her to bear as it was. The cost of maintaining a massive navy in an arms race with Japan and the United States for the preceding 20 years would have made it well nigh impossible. When war did come, Japanese airpower made short work of the HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse, the two battleships that actually were on hand to defend Singapore. In the fighting that followed, a superior British force was defeated by a Japanese army perilously short of supplies in one of the greatest stains on the proud tradition of British arms ever recorded. We Americans don’t blame the Bladensburg Races on anything but the cowardice of our troops and the ineptitude of our commanders. I suggest that the British consider the possibility that they may bear some responsibility for their own abject defeats as well.

Well, we did have a difficult adolescence, and perhaps one can’t blame our dear old mother country for occasionally being a bit testy with us. The next time Hitchens directs his poison pen our way, however, he would probably do well to pick a more convincing grievance than the Naval Treaty of 1922.

The Western Media and Hamas Propaganda

If you’re interested in the dead tree media’s narrative of the day, just check The Washington Post’s designated propaganda column on the upper right of the front page. You’ll usually find all the talking points that are fit to print. The headline of today’s column sums it up in five words; “Nations decry blockade of Gaza.”

The article might have been written by a Hamas press agent. The byline; White House Urges Change. Right, we all know how that “change” thing works. In this case, “change” means the unchecked flow of rockets and other war material into Gaza from the sea, to supplement the more limited supply coming through tunnels from Egypt. The first sentence reads,

Israel’s botched and deadly commando raid on an aid flotilla has set off widespread international criticism of the Gaza blockade, with popular opinion in many countries swinging heavily against Israel and even the United States urging its ally to find new ways to allow aid shipments to reach the Palestinians.

The Post doesn’t further describe the magical and instantaneous polling process that allowed it to discover that “popular opinion in many countries” was “swinging heavily against Israel” a mere one day after the incident. There is no mention of the responsibility of Hamas and its dupes in the “peace movement” for deliberately provoking a violent incident that cost the lives of nine people. It is all the fault of Israel and its “botched and deadly commando raid.” No mention is made of the fact that the promoters of this propaganda stunt made no attempt whatsoever to negotiate with Israel on the delivery of aid, and that Hamas is refusing it in spite of Israel’s agreement to let it pass through the checkpoints. It’s all Israel’s fault. It must “find new ways” to get the aid through in spite of the demonstrated intransigence of its enemies.

Reading on we find that the raid “has endangered the push for sanctions against Iran and peace efforts in the Middle East,” as if such sanctions weren’t an effort in futility that will have zero effect on the government of Iran whether “the push” succeeds or not, and as if the “peace efforts in the Middle East” were not pabulum for idiots who can never seem to grasp the fact that there would be peace in the Middle East tomorrow if Israel’s enemies conceded her right to exist, and that any “peace process” that doesn’t insist on that right is nothing but a charade.

We learn that the raid “tarnished Israeli relations with onetime allies, especially Turkey,” as if the Erdogan regime hadn’t been leading Turkey away from secular democracy towards an Islamic theocracy for years. There’s the usual, mealy-mouthed he said, she said,

Israeli officials say the demonstrators attacked the commandos with axes and metal rods, while flotilla organizers say the troops used excessive force on unarmed civilians.

No matter that video footage of the incident clearly shows these “unarmed civilians” swarming the Israeli boarders and beating them with iron bars and clubs. As usual, Israelis aren’t allowed to act in self defense, no matter that six of her soldiers were hurt, including two with life-threatening injuries.

We get the usual imbecilities about the “legality” of the Israeli blockade, as if international law were not perfectly clear on the point:

Central to the criticism of Israel were questions about the legality of its actions. The raid took place on a ship that was apparently unarmed, in international waters. But Allen Weiner, a former State Department lawyer and legal counsel at the U.S. Embassy at The Hague, said Israel was technically operating legally.

Israel wasn’t “technically operating legally.” It was operating legally, period. The last time I looked, the international law relating to sea blockades had changed very little over the last 150 years, and it unequivocally supports Israel’s right to blockade Gaza.

It goes without saying that WaPo “doesn’t notice” the strong support for Israel in venues such as the blogosphere, talk radio, and Foxnews. That would only confuse her readers, who are expected to believe that “peace activists” with big mouths have a monopoly on deciding “world opinion.”

In a word, the narrative hasn’t changed. Regardless of the facts, it’s always Israel’s fault, her enemies share none of the blame, she has no right to defend herself, the fact that hundreds of rocket attacks were launched against her from Gaza doesn’t matter, nor does the fact that her enemies have the power to bring peace to the region immediately, simply by accepting Israel’s right to exist. Many inside and outside Israel have been pointing out that her leaders should have known the purpose of the flotilla was not to deliver aid, but to provoke an incident that could be exploited for propaganda, and reacted accordingly. True, but that’s not really the story here. The story is the willingness of the western media to serve as uncritical propaganda mouthpieces for people who have launched thousands of attacks deliberately intended to murder civilians. The story is that media’s studied indifference to those crimes as long as their intended victims are Jews.

Israel has a right to exist. Unless she prevails, her people face another Diaspora in an increasingly hostile world at best. If the “peace activists” have their way, it is more likely that they will face another Holocaust. I and many other gentiles may not count in the Post’s assessment of “world opinion,” but we wish her well, for all that. May her people never lose their nerve or their courage.

Hamid Karzai and the Media’s Self Caricature

As you may recall, I commented a week ago on the remarkably rapid spread of the “Afghan corruption” meme in the legacy media following Obama’s brief visit to the country, with the ostensible purpose of dressing down and publicly humiliating its president, Hamid Karzai. In the interim the Afghan President has let it be known that he was less than pleased at being treated like a lackey by, among other things, adducing a highly public irritation at excessive foreign interference in his country’s affairs, and mooting the intriguing possibility of jumping ship to the Taliban. Of course, all this was highly predictable assuming Karzai had more spine than a wet noodle, which he apparently does. Obama’s media poodles are certainly aware of this, making their “interpretation” of the Afghan president’s reaction all the more comical.

For example, CNN’s Jack Cafferty is “shocked, shocked” at Karzai’s recent behavior, opining, “with friends like this, who needs enemies.” One of his more clairvoyant commenters chimed in, “Get out of that country and Iraq. Bring our boys home and fight terrorism from within our own country by protecting it from outsiders and keeping a close eye on who we already have living here.” It must be great for Jack to have readers who pick up on the narrative that quickly.

Over at MSNBC, Mark Rosenball gives his readers a multiple choice quiz on what’s wrong with the Afghan president. Knowing how perceptive my readers are, I’ll bet you can guess the right answer without even seeing the rest. That’s right! The correct answer is: C. Karzai is on drugs.

Of course, in every business there’s always that 5% who just never get the word. In journalism it’s usually the guys who write the Op-Ed page. If memory serves, H.L. Mencken, the sage of Baltimore, referred to them as being one rung lower on the ladder than writers of obituaries. Sure enough, there was a piece entitled “The Karzai Problem” right at the top of the Wapo editorials on Tuesday that blurted out, “Hamid Karzai is proving, at least, that public acrimony between the U.S. and Afghan presidents will not be a one-way street… The question remains whether airing these differences in public helps or hurts the U.S. mission in Afghanistan… and it’s hard to see how public disparagement of Mr. Karzai helps.” How that got by all those layers of editors is beyond me, but the “Independent Newspaper” got back in step with alacrity. The very next day they rediscovered the essential truth that “Karzai is a bad partner,” and doubled down on the “corruption” meme.

Well, the national value added tax idea went over like a lead balloon, wars are expensive, and the Administration has to scare up some cash one way or another. So long, Hamid. It’s been nice knowin’ ya.

karzai

The Nuclear Posture Review and the Future of the Arsenal

The right and the left in this country have achieved a state of MAD (Mutually Assured Demonization). The recent attempts by the legacy media to whip up hysteria over threats of violence to those who voted for the health bill is a case in point. There was a time, not that long ago, when these “objective journalists” would have gotten away with it. There was no comparably audible public voice on the right to oppose them. Now there is, in the form of talk radio, powerful blogs, and Foxnews. Result: They only succeeded in, once again, making themselves look silly. The Right was in their face immediately, pointing out, among other things, the gross hypocrisy in the double standard they applied to violence and threats of violence depending on whether they come from the right or the left.

Overall, this form of MAD is a good thing. The sanctimonious, condescending attitude of the journalists of yesteryear was getting very old by the time Rush Limbaugh finally appeared on the scene. However, it does have its drawbacks, in the form of increasing levels of political polarization and the associated pious posing on both the right and the left. Indeed, when it comes to the ostentatious striking of sanctimonious public poses, the right has, at long last, achieved parity with the left. Reasoned debate becomes difficult when both sides are only interested in occupying the moral high ground.

Consider, for example, the right’s overwrought response to the latest Nuclear Posture Review (NPR). The NPR is a document submitted to Congress each year by the Department of Defense setting forth what the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. security strategy should be. The latest version contains a watered down “no first use” provision according to which we won’t respond with nuclear weapons even if attacked with chemical and biological weapons, with the caveat that for nations that don’t play according to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, everything is still on the table. Some of the other more significant provisions include:

• The United States will not conduct nuclear testing, and will seek ratification and entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

• The United States will not develop new nuclear warheads. Life Extension Programs (LEPs) will use only nuclear components based on previously tested designs, and will not support new military missions or provide for new military capabilities.

• The Administration will study options for ensuring the safety, security, and reliability of nuclear warheads on a case-by-case basis, consistent with the congressionally mandated Stockpile Management Plan. The full range of LEP approaches will be considered: refurbishment of existing warheads, reuse of nuclear components from different warheads, and replacement of nuclear components.

The response Tunku Daravarajan at The Daily Beast:

I despair of this latest episode of gestural theater designed to make the U.S. look exquisitely reasonable (should we call it “Jimmy-Cartesian”?), but which in truth results in the U.S. looking flaccid, or worse, complacent. After all, who gains from a presidential posture that has, in effect, stigmatized our most potent deterrent? In terms of foreign policy—or, better put, foreign clout—the U.S. is going through a startling period of auto-emasculation.

and from Roger Simon at PajamasMedia:

Like some looney member of Code Pink, our president is abandoning the nuclear deterrent adhered to by every American president since Truman. And he is doing it in a manner that makes absolutely no sense… What are we to make of this and the man who is adopting this policy? Does he hate us? Does he hate this country? What would he do if there was, for example, a massive small pox attack on the U.S.? Send in the infantry? Call in the Marines? Try to reason with whoever did it and recommend they negotiate as the fatal disease spreads to millions of people?… Now I detest nuclear weapons as much as the next person, but this approach seems — I hate to repeat myself, but I will — deranged.

Now let’s think about this for a moment. Suppose, just for the sake of argument, that the ultimate reason for having a nuclear arsenal in the first place is to protect our security. What if Tunku and Roger, being human, and therefore not infallible, are wrong? What if, just hypothetically, the policy set forth in the NPR really will make us more safe, and the policy they prefer less safe. They have not limited themselves to a reasoned response to the NPR, setting forth, in their opinions, why they think it will not enhance our safety. Rather, they have villified the people who support it, accusing them, not only of being wrong, but of being crazy. When you demonize people, you make it very difficult for them to respond to your objections in a reasoned manner. Being human, they are more likely to strike back, trading tit for tat. I would even go so far as to say that, in some cases, that is the only rational way to respond. It seems rather obvious that convergence to correct policy decisions is not a likely outcome of this process of mutual demonization.

That is the reason that, as I have maintained elsewhere, when it comes to policy decisions as weighty as those relating to nuclear policy, moralistic posing, with all the associated pushing of emotional hot buttons, should be set aside in favor of some semblance of rational discussion. The goal here, I assume, is to survive. Let us, then, dispassionately consider what we should best do in order to survive.

According to Steve Schippert ant Liberty Pundits, the NPR not only does not serve that goal but is, in fact, pointless.  In his words:

There is none, really. Not beyond rhetoric and “historic” moments and – dare the Los Angeles Times say it – a “manifesto.”

No point at all – but for one critical aspect lost in all of the arguing back and forth. Clarity is dead. Nuance and the foolish self-assurance of perceived superior intellectual and/or moral capacity have rightly replaced clear understanding.

Admitting in advance my own fallibility, I beg to differ. In the first place, we have kept the nuclear genie in the bottle now for going on 65 years. I am far from believing that an all out nuclear exchange would result in the extinction of humanity, or anything close to it. It is, nevertheless, an understatement to say that it would be extremely destructive. That being the case, it would be well if, to the extent possible, we maintained a taboo on the first use of nuclear weapons.

Any first user of nuclear weapons likely would become and, it seems to me, should become, an international pariah. Roger paints a nightmare scenario in which millions of people are dying in a biological attack while our hands are tied. Given the known effects of the releases of biological and chemical agents to date, the chances of something like that happening are vanishingly small. If it did, the NPR would become a moot point, just as all our loud protestations against unrestricted submarine warfare prior to our entry into WWI became a moot point for our own submarine forces in the Pacific after Pearl Harbor. A far more likely first use scenario would be an attempt at eliminating enemy stocks of biological or chemical weapons with a nuclear bunker buster, either preemptively or after an ineffective and very ill-considered attack on the United States with such weapons. This kind of first use would be very attractive to many in the nuclear weapons community. It would, however, do anything but promote our national security. Rather, it would end the taboo on the use of nuclear weapons, greatly increasing the chances that we, in turn, would become the victims of a really devastating attack, not with ineffective chemical or biological agents, but with nuclear weapons.

I also agree with the other sections of the NPR that are major departures from past policy, or, at least, have been represented as such. One of these is the provision that the United States will not conduct nuclear testing. Again, there are many in the weapons community who would love to resume testing, basing their arguments on insuring the reliability of the stockpile. It would also help the national weapons laboratories solve the demographic problem they face with the retirement or impending retirement of most of the physicists and other technical experts who have actually taken part in nuclear tests, and the difficulty of attracting talented scientists to careers as custodians of an aging pile of nuclear weapons. It would also play directly into the hands of our enemies.

The United States has a huge advantage over potential nuclear rivals in its possession of above ground experimental facilities (known in the business as AGEX) second to none in the world. From the massive National Ignition Facility, with its ability to focus 192 powerful laser beams on a tiny point, to the Z pulsed power machine capable of producing bursts of X-rays at levels far beyond those of any comparable facility on the planet, to a host of other smaller but still highly impressive and technologically advanced experimental facilities, we can approach the physical conditions that exist within exploding nuclear devices more closely and for longer periods of time than any other nation can even dream of. To resume nuclear testing would be to stupidly throw away this huge advantage. At the same time, it would give our enemies all the moral authority they needed to resume testing or develop nuclear weapons themselves.

The decision to set in concrete in the NPR the decision not to develop new nuclear weapons is also a good one. The idea that the United States would do such a thing is anything but implausible. On the contrary, the National Nuclear Security Administration has been agitating for years to get the go-ahead to build the Reliable Replacement Warhead. When Congress wisely told them, not only no, but hell no, they kept up the pressure regardless. Congress has taken a lot of bad raps lately. They deserve a lot of credit for derailing NNSA’s determination to go ahead with the RRW. In the first place, the weapons in our stockpile are not fragile and unreliable. Any enemy that assumed so would be making a very grave mistake. In the second, if we developed the RRW, the pressure to test it would likely become irresistible. The idea of developing a nuclear weapon without testing it would never have passed the “ho-ho” test at the weapons labs back in the 70’s and 80’s. The claim that we wouldn’t need to test the RRW is likely wishful thinking. Again, all the objections to a resumption of nuclear testing I have cited above would apply. Finally, by building a new type of nuclear weapon we would once again sacrifice the moral high ground, handing our enemies all the justification they needed for building new weapons themselves. Again, we would sacrifice major advantages, simply to acquire a weapon that would be somewhat cheaper to maintain than those in the existing stockpile. For obvious reasons, the weapons designers at the labs would love it. For the rest of us, it would make no sense at all.

I am hardly in favor of unilateral nuclear disarmament. On the contrary, I am in favor of maintaining a powerful arsenal and assuring that the resources we need to keep it safe and reliable will always be available. However, the latest NPR is a reasoned response to the nuclear myopia that would have us sacrifice real advantages in return for extremely dubious returns. As such, it deserves our support.

nuclear-explosion

Afghan Corruption: New Memes and Old Ploys

Memes; it’s amazing how fast they spread these days.  Today’s meme du jour was “Afghan Corruption.”  You couldn’t miss it.  I happened to stroll past the newspaper stand at the local drugstore, and saw the headline, “In Afghan trip, Obama presses Karzai on graft” on the grey lady.  The Wapo chimed in with, “Obama presses Karzai for cooperation; U.S. wants government cleanup in Afghanistan.”  There was a picture of Obama wearing the stern face he likely uses to lecture his children accompanied by a chastened Karzai.  Beneath this some “news analysis” bearing the headline, “For the U.S., Afghan corruption is an elusive target,” was thrown in for good measure.  I almost swallowed my gum when I saw that Newsweek had an “Afghan Corruption” cover, in perfect harmony with the dailies.  Now that was fast!  Sure enough, when I got back to my computer I found “Obama calls on Karzai to push reforms” on the front page of the LA Times, and so on down the list of the usual suspects. 

I can only recommend that Karzai get over the humiliation of being treated like a schoolboy instead of the leader of an independent state.  He’ll have to get used to it.  It’s one of those “change” things that comes with the new dispensation.  Benjamin Netanyahu could have told him.  If the US happens to have a firm grip on your country’s balls, you’ll just need to deal with being humiliated and treated with contempt. 

Meanwhile, he might consider polishing up his resume.  As those governments of yesteryear sanguine enough to trust the United States as an ally have learned, charges of “corruption” are the traditional rationalization for throwing our “friends” under the bus as we, once again, skedaddle.  This time around, I’m sure Obama is in no mood to be trifled with.  He needs big dough to finance health care “reform” and “job creation.”  Where’s it to come from if we don’t extract ourselves from all these silly wars?  And, after all, he’s been conscientious, hasn’t he?  He already tried the surge thing.  The stage will soon be set for him to exit, stage left.

Of Haitian Aid and US Conspiracies: Spiegel’s Hate Pedlar Pitzke Carries On

Germany is a country where anti-American hate goes hand in hand with “progressive” ideology. The editors of Spiegel magazine were among the first to discover just how lucrative it could be to exploit the phenomenon. They were in the forefront of a campaign of quasi-racist hatemongering that reached its climax in the final years of the Clinton and the first years of the Bush Administration. Some of its nastiest manifestations have been well-documented at Davids Medienkritik, where you will find an occasional comment by yours truly. In those days, Spiegel’s virulent anti-Americanism became so obsessive that occasionally it was hard to find any news about Germany on their website. Their hate pedlar in chief was Marc Pitzke, who could always be relied on to throw out red meat to Germany’s legions of Amerika haters thinly tarted up as “analysis.” Eventually, people on the other side of the Atlantic began to notice what was going on, and Spiegel’s claims of “objective criticism” no longer passed the “ho ho” test. Spiegel put Pitzke back in his jar and throttled back the hate campaign. Manifestations of anti-Americanism have been more “tasteful” since then, but they’ve hardly disappeared. The haters haven’t gone anywhere, and they are still more than willing to pay good coin to anyone willing to feed their prejudices. Spiegel still uses Pitzke to give them an occasional “fix.” It helps the bottom line.

The content of his latest “analysis” is no less predictable than any of his other offerings over the last decade and more. It appears the rapid mobilization of US aid to Haiti had nothing to do with any praiseworthy motive, but was all part of a dark conspiracy to promote US imperial ambitions in the region. Surprise, surprise! Some money quotes from Pitzke’s “analysis:”

Here “help” doesn’t just mean help – but rather invariably a complex fabric of geopolitical interests and self serving.

This time, too, the US military took the lead.

(at UN Headquarters in New York) Bill Clinton appealed before the General Assembly for international help and aid, and then made the rounds of the TV news shows. “Only five dollars can make a difference,” he said… As President he made sure via an American intervention that Haiti’s deposed chief of state, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was returned to office, in the hope that he would be a vassal.

You get the idea.  Remember the old saying, “No good deed goes unpunished!”  I often wonder what Pitzke gets for this kind of “analysis.”  Spiegel probably pays him too much.  Let any reasonably competent journalism undergraduate read four or five of his articles to get the general idea, supply them with the topic of the day, and they could surely reproduce this sort of “analysis” virtually word for word.  It’s about as predictable as the sun rising in the morning.

You “old German hands” out there will no doubt remember how the apologists and rationalizers assured us that German anti-Americanism was “all about Bush.”  Well, Bush is long gone, and German anti-Americanism is alive and well.  They didn’t give Obama much of a honeymoon, did they?  How very disappointed the apologists must be to discover that, after all, he’s just like Bush.

Pitzke ends his latest offering with some pious pontifications about televangelist Pat Robertson’s take on Haiti.  It turns out Pat has stepped in it again, characteristically attributing the disaster to divine vengeance.  Apparently he wasn’t too finicky about historical accuracy in the process, claiming that the Haitians made a “pact with the devil” when they were “under the knout” of Napoleon III, instead of Napoleon I.  Pitzke’s “zinger” sentence at the end of his “analysis:”

But the Americans have never been too exact about history when it comes to Haiti.

There you have it, dear readers.   You thought you were individuals.  In fact, you’re all just so many Pat Robertsons.