Archive for the 'Nuclear' Category



The Final Collapse Of Obama’s Foreign Policy: A Nuclear Iran

BY Herschel Smith
2 years ago

We’re all painfully aware of the impotence of the curent administration in the area of foreign policy.  The world simply doesn’t listen to us – or, they do, but it’s only to gauge the timing of their next move.

But this recent signal from an administration representative is about as clear a statement of withdrawn interests and intentions as one can imagine.

Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of U.S. armed forces, said he does not wish to be “complicit” in a unilateral Israeli strike on Iran.

Dempsey said Thursday that such an attack would “clearly delay but probably not destroy Iran’s nuclear program,” the London Guardian reported. He added, “I don’t want to be complicit if they choose to do it.”

This statement does three things.  First, it demonstrates the administration to be liars when they have claimed that they will not allow Iran to go nuclear.  Second, it clearly shows that if Israel launches an attack on Iran, she will go it alone.  Essentially, Israel is thrown under the bus.  The additional assertion in the report that we do not know Iran’s nuclear intentions, “as intelligence did not clearly reveal them,” is code for saying that we will never know because our intelligence community will never go on record saying that Iran has designs on a nuclear weapons program.  Timing isn’t germane to this conversation according to the statement.  The context is whether we know Iran’s “intentions,” a precondition that always supplies plausible deniability and makes everything else irrelevant.

Third, and most important, it explicitly acquiesces to a nuclear Iran.  Read again:  ” … such an attack would “clearly delay but probably not destroy Iran’s nuclear program.”  This also makes everything else about intentions an irrelevant obfuscation.  The balance of the communication from Dempsey is just a smoke screen.  This administration believes that they cannot stop an Iranian nuclear program.

The signals to the Iranian Mullahs couldn’t be clearer.  Proceed apace with your nuclear weapons program, we don’t think you can be stopped anyway.  There are others within the U.S. military community who foolishly believe that the U.S. can live with a nuclear Iran, John Abizaid for one ( I suspect that there are many more).  But here, Dempsey is speaking for more than just himself.  Despite what the administration has claimed, they do not believe they can know the intentions of the Iranian program, they do not intend to assist Israel for fear of appearing complicit, and they don’t even think they can stop Iran if they tried.  Case closed.

Upon inauguration, Mitt Romney’s second duty should be the dismissal of the joint chiefs of staff, including the chairman, and replacement of them with men who have some backbone.  That includes flag officers who work for them and make excuses for green on blue violence in Afghanistan by asserting that the pressures of the Ramadan fast made them do it.

But the 50,000 foot view is one of wreck.  The Obama foreign policy has collapsed, and it is obscene and unseemly.  It’s as if I am passing by some awful, bloody crash on the highway, and want to look away but can’t.  It should shame every American to witness what our country has wrought.

“Will The U.S. Attack Iran?” Having The Wrong Conversation

BY Glen Tschirgi
2 years ago

Last week, Lee Smith published an article in Tablet that gave three, main reasons why the United States is not going to attack Iran now nor will it attack Iran under a President Romney, notwithstanding all the talk to the contrary.

This article got quite a bit of play in the Statist Media because, it was argued, the article seemingly showed that Mitt Romney is carrying on a charade of getting tough on Iran and that any criticisms of President Obama’s current Iran policy are hollow or hypocritical.

Lee Smith advances three, main arguments for why no Republican president would openly attack Iran:  1) Domestic politics;  2) History of Iran-U.S. relations, and;  3) the disguised reliance upon nuclear deterrence.

The article makes perfect sense at a certain level.   On domestic politics, Smith is correct, but for the wrong reasons.   While Smith points to the desire to avoid destabilizing economic effects of any attack, the real bar to Republican action is entirely political.   The Democrats established a clear precedent with George W. Bush that any military action abroad, even if a broad authorization is obtained from Congress in advance, will be subjected to the worst partisan attacks and scurrilous accusations.   Democrats will mobilize every resource to demonize a Republican president who dares to use force against America’s enemies.   Use of force is an exclusive, Democrat prerogative.

On the history of dealings with Iran, Smith also scores points:

No American president has ever drawn red lines for Tehran and enforced them by showing that transgressions are swiftly and severely punished.

It’s true that it was a Democrat, Jimmy Carter, who sat by idly when Ayatollah Khomeini and the founders of the Islamic Republic stormed the U.S. embassy and held Americans hostage for 444 days. But GOP hero Ronald Reagan provided the Iranians with arms—after the Islamic Republic’s Lebanese asset, Hezbollah, killed 241 U.S. Marines in the 1983 bombing of their barracks at the Beirut airport. When the FBI said Tehran was responsible for the 1996 bombing of Khobar Towers, Bill Clinton failed to respond or even name Iran, lest it derail the “dialogue of civilizations” promised by the newly elected reform-minded president Muhammad Khatami. And the last Republican in the White House was no more proactive in countering Iran’s actual attacks on Americans: The more than 100,000 American servicemen and -women that Bush had dispatched to Iraq were targeted by the IRGC and their local allies, a fact that U.S. officials tended to obscure and did little to change when they did acknowledge it.

As to a hidden reliance on nuclear deterrence, Smith is also likely correct:

If you can kill Americans without any consequences and the Americans will in fact collaborate in covering up your malfeasance, you can certainly build a nuclear weapons facility without too much concern that the Americans are really keeping “all options on the table”; the White House is not and almost surely never will—no matter who’s calling the shots. Short of an American city suffering thousands of casualties in a nuclear attack that the Iranians boast of publicly, it is difficult to know what would compel a U.S. president to take military action against Iran.

Maybe U.S. policymakers just believe, in spite of what they say publicly, that Iran really isn’t that big a deal. Remember that even today, a number of American officials, civilian and military, cut their teeth on Cold War strategy, an era when the United States faced off against a real superpower. Washington and Moscow fought proxy wars against each other on four continents with the fear of an eventual nuclear exchange leading to mutually assured destruction looming in the background. Perhaps, if seen in this context, for American policymakers Iran just doesn’t rise to a genuine threat level.

The problem with Smith’s analysis (and many others who have been endlessly debating the pros and cons of attacking Iran to stop its nuclear weapons development) is that it fundamentally is the wrong conversation.

The focus of the debate should not be about stopping a totalitarian, Islamist regime devoted to martyrdom from getting nuclear weapons.   The focus should be on removing the Regime itself.  The Iranian people have lived long enough under the hand of an oppressive theocracy to know that the next government must be anything but that.  The Green Movement that began with the phony elections of 2009 explicitly called for a true, secular, democratic government.  The Regime immediately recognized the counter-revolutionary nature of the Greens and put it down with absolute brutality.  The Regime knows that the people of Iran want normalized relations with the U.S. and the West in general.  Any change in government is going to be a sharp repudiation of the current leadership and the mullahs.

Fortunately for the U.S. and the West, the Regime is clinging on to power on a cliff’s edge of explosive public unrest and simmering revolution.   All that is needed to effect the removal of the Regime is a little… more… time.

This plays directly into the debate over Israel’s decision whether to attack Iran.

The current debate suffers from the same mistake.   Critics endlessly point out that even if Israel could muster the nerve and assets to attack Iranian facilities any such attack would “only” delay the Iranian nuclear program, not end it.   If any attack could end Iran’s nuclear program that would certainly be preferable.   But that is, of course, highly unlikely.   Delaying the program, however, is the very point.   Delaying the program is more than a sufficient goal because it gives more time to change the leadership of Iran.

Obama has been doing everything in its power to subvert and forestall an attack by Israel against Iran’s nuclear facilities.   This is directly contrary to U.S. interests in bringing down the Iranian Regime.  An attack by Israel, even if incomplete, would undeniably set back the Iranian nuclear program by some years according to most estimates.   This additional time could be the crucial difference in allowing the U.S. to work, covertly, toward bringing down the Regime.

In the end, the U.S. must realize that it is not the possession of nuclear weapons in and of itself that should be feared.   It is the government that possesses such weapons.   Simply seeking to keep nuclear technology out of the hands of totalitarian regimes is, ultimately futile.  As North Korea demonstrated, with enough determination and sacrifice, even a poverty-stricken country can get nuclear weapons.  The goal must always be to eliminate any regime that evidences any intention to go nuclear.   It is a red line that cannot be crossed.

How and when we go about doing that is the conversation we should be having.

Apocalypse Now: Top Secret U.S. Nuclear Weapons Plant Infiltrated

BY Glen Tschirgi
2 years, 1 month ago

(H/T Instapundit)

From time to time, The Captain’s Journal has posted items dealing with the shocking vulnerability of U.S. infrastructure to attack by hostile forces, as for example here.

And normally the hypothetical involves sleeper cells from Hezbollah or Iran or perhaps other hostile groups or nations.

These scenarios are scary enough on their own but it is human nature to discount the likelihood of such attacks occurring in order to avoid facing the grim possibilities.

Then we have something like this happen:

Three peace activists — including an 82-year-old nun — infiltrated the highest-security area of the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant in a predawn protest Saturday, reportedly evading guards and cutting through three or four fences in order to spray-paint messages, hang banners and pour human blood at the site where warhead parts are manufactured and the nation’s stockpile of bomb-grade uranium is stored.

It was an unprecedented security breach at the Oak Ridge plant, which enriched the uranium for the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, during World War II and continues to be a mainstay of the U.S. nuclear defense program.

The protesters, who called themselves, “Transform Now Plowshares,” were identified as Michael R. Walli, 63, Washington, D.C.; Sister Megan Rice, 82, of Nevada; and Greg Boertje-Obed, 57, of Duluth, Minn. They were apprehended inside the plant around 4:30 a.m. Saturday, interviewed later by members of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Inspector General, and then transported to the Blount County Correction Center, where they reportedly face conditional federal charges of vandalism and trespassing.

Supporters of the activist group said an arraignment is set for Monday.

Steven Wyatt, a spokesman for the National Nuclear Security Administration at Y-12, declined to discuss details of the early-morning events at the Oak Ridge, but he acknowledged that the unapproved entry into the plant’s inner sanctum — a high-security zone known simply as the Protected Area — was unprecedented.
(emphasis added)

And it gets better.   The break in occurred just shortly after the nuclear facility announced plans to cut back on the number of security personnel guarding this critical facility.

Stock up folks, it’s going to be a long, nuclear winter.

Time For Lugar To Go

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 3 months ago

Professor Jacobson has lost the love for Dick Lugar.

I’ve been traveling without a computer this weekend but this story at IndyStar is worth a PDA post, so excuse some formatting issues like no embedded links.

The inclination I’ve had to feel sorry for Dick Lugar that his career may reach an inglorious end is rapidly dissipating. Lugar demonstrates daily why it is time to defeat him.

Lugar still refuses to say he will support Mourdock, still seeks to have non-Republicans decide the Republican primary, and feeds the left-wing narrative that the Tea Party just shouts.

Lugar is insulting and arrogant.

Check out the article.  I never did have any respect for Lugar.  This silly Washington Post commentary by Dana Milbank is a good example why.

For years Dick Lugar has been the leading Senate Republican on foreign policy, shaping post-Cold War strategy, securing sanctions to end South African apartheid and bringing democracy to the Philippines, among other things. His signature achievement, drafted with Democrat Sam Nunn, was the 1992 Nunn-Lugar Act, which has disarmed thousands of Soviet nuclear warheads once aimed at the United States.

Enter Richard Mourdock, a tea party hothead attempting to defeat Lugar in the GOP primary. A cornerstone of his effort to oust Lugar is the six-term senator’s bad habit of bipartisanship — never mind that Lugar’s bipartisanship was in the service of protecting millions of Americans from nuclear, chemical and biological terrorism.

Oh stop it.  Just stop it.  The START treaty (and New START) did nothing of the sort.  Russia had become essentially economically incapable of maintaining their nuclear arsenal, and as a good excuse for cutting back on ours and spending the money on entitlement programs – and even disparaging the Reliable Replacement Warhead program, something that even the DoD says that we need – we pursued a strategy with Russia which allowed them to maintain approximate parity with the U.S. by investing absolutely nothing in their defense.

Look around you.  Everyone alive knows one, or two, or three or even more men who are alive today, or who have lived and died and been loved by their families and friends, as a consequence of nuclear weapons.  Nothing has contributed more to world peace in the second half of the twentieth century than the existence of nuclear weapons.  Thank God for them.  Their existence has saved untold lives and prevented untold suffering.

Left to Dick Lugar, who wants to cement his reputation (I suppose for his obituary one day to show that he was a good man or something), we wouldn’t have had this wonderful deterrent.

Yea.  It’s time for him to go alright.

Obama Would Sell Out America On Nuclear Weapons

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 5 months ago

Concerning the recent open mic moment with lackey Dmitri Medvedev, Glen Tschirgi has suggested that the relationship of Mr. Obama with America is analogous to one of an attorney representing a client he really doesn’t want, or doesn’t believe in, or doesn’t like … or something.  It’s hard to tell with Obama because his actions are so inexplicable concerning the projections of American power, at least for a President of the U.S.  This sounds right, but I’ll expand the observations to include the notion that he always intended to sell out America on nuclear weapons and missile defense.

In spite of repeated warnings by the Department of Defense concerning an aging nuclear stockpile, Obama has always said that he would target a reduction in nuclear weapons.  He continues to press for a “world without nuclear weapons,” and regarding the U.S. nuclear arsenal, there are more cuts coming if he is reelected.

“My administration’s nuclear posture recognises that the massive nuclear arsenal we inherited from the Cold War is poorly suited to today’s threats, including nuclear terrorism,” he said.

The administration was now conducting a “comprehensive study of our nuclear forces,” added Mr Obama, saying: “Even as we have more work to do, we can already say with confidence that we have more nuclear weapons than we need.”

America currently has about 1,950 deployed nuclear warheads, compared with 2,430 for Russia.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise.  Laura Holgate is an Obama adviser on weapons of mass destruction.  Her CV describes her position on nuclear weapons.

Ms. Holgate joined the office of the Weapons of Mass Destruction Coordinator at the National Security Council in 2009 as the Senior Director for Weapons of Mass Destruction Terrorism and Threat Reduction. In this role, she oversees and coordinates the development of national policies and programs to reduce global threats from nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons; detect, identify, secure, and eliminate nuclear materials; prevent malicious use of biotechnology; and secure the civilian nuclear fuel cycle.

From 2001 to 2009, Ms. Holgate was the Vice President for Russia/New Independent States Programs at the Nuclear Threat Initiative. The Nuclear Threat Initiative is a public charity devoted to reducing toward zero the risk that nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons will ever be used, and to preventing their proliferation. Working closely with governments and international organizations, Ms. Holgate led NTI’s activities to secure and eliminate fissile materials, develop new employment for former weapons workers, reduce risks of the nuclear fuel cycle, and enhance national threat reduction programs.

Prior to joining NTI, Ms. Holgate directed the Department of Energy’s Office of Fissile Materials Disposition from 1998 to 2001, where she was responsible for consolidating and disposing of excess weapons plutonium and highly enriched uranium in the U.S. and Russia …

Burning Mixed Oxide Fuel (MOX, produced from the weapons program) in commercial reactors is a nice idea, but only because we don’t intend to use it for anything else and don’t really believe in deterrents, and need to use the Plutonium for something.  The biggest contributor to world peace since the mid-20th century has been the existence of nuclear weapons.  Untold millions of lives have been saved and immeasurable misery prevented because America sought power and force projection, specifically with nuclear weapons.

Our current goal is to rid ourselves of that power, and yet it should be remembered that it was always Mr. Obama’s goal.  The only reason that you hire an adviser who believes in zero nuclear weapons is because that’s where you want to go too.

Is Iran Trying to Develop Nukes? Don’t Ask U.S. Intelligence Agencies

BY Glen Tschirgi
2 years, 5 months ago

According to a front-page story by James Risen in The New York Times, those crazy mullahs in Iran have U.S. intelligence agencies dumbfounded:

WASHINGTON — While American spy agencies have believed that the Iranians halted efforts to build a nuclear bomb back in 2003, the difficulty in assessing the government’s ambitions was evident two years ago, when what appeared to be alarming new intelligence emerged, according to current and former United States officials.

Intercepted communications of Iranian officials discussing their nuclear program raised concerns that the country’s leaders had decided to revive efforts to develop a weapon, intelligence officials said.

That, along with a stream of other information, set off an intensive review and delayed publication of the 2010 National Intelligence Estimate, a classified report reflecting the consensus of analysts from 16 agencies. But in the end, they deemed the intercepts and other evidence unpersuasive, and they stuck to their longstanding conclusion.

Unbelievable.

We have an authoritarian regime in Iran that has repeatedly attacked the United States and its allies over the last 30 years.  They have invested billions of petro dollars (at the expense of their shaky economy and massive public unrest) in order to build elaborate, underground facilities with state of the art centrifuges to enrich uranium.  They are known to have consulted with A.Q. Khan, the Pakistani nuclear scientist key to the Pakistani Bomb.  They are known to have consulted with North Korea on nuclear weapons including, according to one recent article, the testing of a uranium nuclear device in North Korea.   Their attempts to develop ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear payloads was recently exposed when the testing facility suffered enormous explosions.  The Regime leadership regularly threatens to obliterate Israel.

And yet the collected wisdom of U.S. intelligence agencies, according to Mr. Risen, remains unchanged from the controversial 2007 N.I.E. that concluded that Iran had stopped pursuing nuclear weapons in 2003.  They found the evidence of Iranian intentions “unpersuasive.”

How can this be?  And bear in mind that the N.I.E. believes that the Iranians have still not re-started their nuclear program.  Let that sink in.   Our intelligence agencies best information leads them to believe that the Iranians have had their nuclear weapons program on hold for almost 10 years now.

What has our intel services so stymied?

The picture emerging from Risen’s article is incredibly troublesome.   To hear Risen tell it, the U.S. lacks any meaningful human intelligence sources inside of Iran and relies, instead, upon signals intelligence– intercepted telephone calls and emails, recon photos and sensitive detection devices.   Israel, we are told, has human intelligence sources in Iran, but the U.S. agencies give them little credence, seemingly afraid of the shadows of Iraq intelligence failures.

Worse, U.S. agencies cannot seem to figure out the complex structure and hierarchy of Iranian leadership:

“In large part, that’s because their system is so confusing,” he said, which “has the effect of making it difficult to determine who speaks authoritatively on what.”

And, he added, “We’re not on the ground, and not having our people on the ground to catch nuance is a problem.”

This is a systemic failure in so many respects that it defies belief.   It almost seems like a farce at times.

Consider the apparent basis for concluding in 2007 that Iran had stopped their nuke program:

Just as in 2010, new evidence about the Iranian nuclear program delayed the National Intelligence Estimate in 2007, the last previous assessment. Current and former American officials say that a draft version of the assessment had been completed when the United States began to collect surprising intelligence suggesting that Iran had suspended its weapons program and disbanded its weapons team four years earlier.

The draft version had concluded that the Iranians were still trying to build a bomb, the same finding of a 2005 assessment. But as they scrutinized the new intelligence from several sources, including intercepted communications in which Iranian officials were heard complaining to one another about stopping the program, the American intelligence officials decided they had to change course, officials said. While enrichment activities continued, the evidence that Iran had halted its weapons program in 2003 at the direction of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was too strong to ignore, they said.

One former senior official characterized the information as very persuasive. “I had high confidence in it,” he said. “There was tremendous evidence that the program had been halted.”

Is this a joke?  “Intercepted communications in which Iranian officials were heard complaining… about stopping the program” ?  And other, apparent evidence that Khamenei directed that the program be halted?  I am obviously not a professional intelligence analyst but if all the physical evidence (enrichment, secret, underground facilities, contacts with nuclear rogue states) points to a burgeoning nuclear weapons program and there are intercepted communications saying the program has stopped, I am going to believe the physical evidence and dismiss the intercepts as so much misinformation.

Can it really be so easy to deceive U.S. intelligence?  Apparently so.

One final note.   Risen claims that Israeli intelligence mainly agrees with the U.S. assessment.   I do not buy this for one moment.   Not a single Israeli source is cited in the article (and on the whole, the article relies upon unnamed and anonymous sources).   We have hearsay from an unnamed source that Israel’s Mossad is on board with the U.S. view.   This runs so contrary to every report being published that it should not be trusted unless and until a source is named.

It is, of course, quite possible that the NYT article is a planted piece by the Obama Administration to take some of the pressure off of Obama to take any decisive action on Iran as well as further undercut any building consensus in Israel to take action on its own.   It is even possible that the intelligence agency chiefs are willing participants in an effort by the Administration to undersell and downplay the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program.   Either way, it stinks and this moment should be marked down as yet another step in the path to a very violent and rude awakening.

It’s the Regime, Stupid: Missing the Point on Iranian Nuclear Weapons

BY Glen Tschirgi
2 years, 5 months ago

Here are the key, closing paragraphs of an opinion piece by GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney in The Washington Post on March 5, 2012:

As for Iran in particular, I will take every measure necessary to check the evil regime of the ayatollahs. Until Iran ceases its nuclear-bomb program, I will press for ever-tightening sanctions, acting with other countries if we can but alone if we must. I will speak out on behalf of the cause of democracy in Iran and support Iranian dissidents who are fighting for their freedom. I will make clear that America’s commitment to Israel’s security and survival is absolute. I will demonstrate our commitment to the world by making Jerusalem the destination of my first foreign trip.

Most important, I will buttress my diplomacy with a military option that will persuade the ayatollahs to abandon their nuclear ambitions. Only when they understand that at the end of that road lies not nuclear weapons but ruin will there be a real chance for a peaceful resolution.

I am not seeking to pick on Mitt Romney.  Rather, his approach to the obvious Iranian drive for nuclear weapons is emblematic of a far wider phenomenon.   As James Carville so succinctly pointed out, the 1992 presidential campaign primarily turned upon the economy and not national security (“the economy, stupid”).   It must be pointed out (repeatedly) in this context that the primary issue is not the development of nuclear weapons per se but the nature of those who would control such weapons.  In short, It’s the Regime, Stupid.

It is a fool’s errand to simply “check the evil regime” or “persuade the ayatollahs to abandon their nuclear ambitions.”   This is akin to persuading water to flow uphill.   The Iranian Regime seeks nuclear weapons because they rightly surmise that possession of such weapons provides them with the same kind of invulnerability that has allowed a succession of dictators in North Korea from being threatened by the West.   No amount of sanctions or finger-wagging or diplomacy will convince them otherwise.

We must face the fact that the nuclear genie is already out of the bottle when it comes to Iran.   They have the scientists and industrial resources right now to re-build or re-constitute their nuclear program even if the U.S. and/or Israel successfully destroyed the present facilities.   According to the German newspaper, Die Welt, the Iranians have already successfully tested a uranium nuclear device under cover in North Korea.

This is not to say that the United States should throw up its hands and accept the inevitable.   By all means, preventing the Regime from advancing further and producing multiple devices in the near future is an imperative.   But it is simply not enough.   As Jamie Fly and Gary Schmitt argue in Foreign Affairs :

The Obama administration has avoided the choice between a military operation and a nuclear Iran — relying on the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusions that Iran has not made the final decision to develop a weapon. But if history is any guide, its faith in receiving any intelligence to the contrary in a timely and unambiguous way is misplaced. Kroenig is correct then to argue that a military strike should be in the cards. But he is wrong to suggest that a limited strike is the only one that should be on the table. If strikes are chosen, it would be far better to put the regime at risk than to leave it wounded but still nuclear capable and ready to fight another day.

But even beyond this view, the real hope— the only hope, really– is that the Iranian people will reject the militant Islamist policies of the Regime and return the country to its pro-Western, democratic norm.   If an open, pro-Western government is installed in Tehran, the fears and difficulties associated with nuclear weapons dissipate.   In the end, it is already too late to keep Iran from possessing nuclear weapons if they truly want them.   We can only ensure that those possessing such weapons are at least as unlikely as India to use them for nefarious ends.   The 21st Century, in fact, will largely be about not only preventing the spread of nuclear weapons but, perhaps more than anything, about ensuring that dangerous regimes who seek them are toppled quickly and remorselessly.

Feels Like 1939 All Over Again: Painful Choices with Iran

BY Glen Tschirgi
2 years, 9 months ago

The Washington Times runs a piece today that serves as a useful, historical lesson.

There are no, particularly surprising or revealing facts reported.   In this respect, the article is a bit of a re-hash of stories that emphasize the costs of taking direct, military action against the Iranian Regime:

Iran is contemplating violently shutting down shipping in the Persian Gulf as one of several counterattack options if Israel strikes its nuclear facilities, regional and intelligence analysts say.

Such attacks would present the Obama administration with the option of undertaking a limited war against Iran by striking its warships and shore-based anti-ship missiles to keep the Gulf open for business.

Former CIA analyst Larry C. Johnson said Iran has enough firepower to effectively close the Gulf and Strait of Hormuz, through which 40 percent of all the world’s oil moves.

“One of the things that Iran has exercised, has the capability to do, is shut down the Persian Gulf,” Mr. Johnson said. “The best-case scenario is they shut it down for a week. The worst case is they shut it down for three to four months.”

He said Iran could unleash small boats laden with explosives “that we don’t have adequate covers for. Add to that the ability to fire multiple missiles. Our naval force will try to stop it, and that’s the hope.”

Mr. Johnson, now a consultant on counterterrorism, said Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, which has orchestrated attacks against the U.S. in Iraq, also likely would hit targets in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf nations.

“I think we would be looking at a significant wave of terrorist retaliation by them,” he said.

What makes this article worthwhile is what it says about the point we find ourselves in at this juncture of our struggle against Islamofascism.   As all the news accounts indicate, stirred by the recent IAEA report, Iran is much closer to developing a nuclear arsenal.   There is a sudden panic among policymakers to head off Iran’s nuclear program.   We are, evidently, at the eleventh hour and The Washington Times article duly recites the serious consequences of any attempt to disrupt Iran’s nuke program by overt military action.

The sad fact is that the West is facing yet another instance of weakness in the face of tyranny.

As Winston Churchill noted in his brilliant history of World War II, The Gathering Storm, Vol. I, p. 218 (Mariner Books Ed.):

Mr. Chamberlain was imbued with a sense of a special and personal mission to come to friendly terms with the Dictators of Italy and Germany, and he conceived himself capable of achieving this relationship.  To Mussolini he wished to accord recognition of the Italian conquest of Abyssinia as a prelude to a general settlement of differences.  To Hitler he was prepared to offer colonial concessions.

Does Chamberlain remind you of any, current political figure who believes in their own, personal charm and powers of persuasion?  Someone who is willing to cede concessions to dictators in the hopes of currying their favor and cooperation?

Here is the heart of the matter.  The historical parallels are astounding.   Churchill summarizes the state of things as Adolph Hitler threatened Poland with invasion in 1939:

In this sad tale of wrong judgments formed by well-meaning and capable people we now reach our climax… Look back and see what we had successively accepted or thrown away: a Germany disarmed by solemn treaty; a Germany rearmed in violation of a solemn treaty; air superiority or even air parity cast away; the Rhineland forcibly occupied and the Siegfried Line built or building; the Berlin-Rome Axis established; Austria devoured and digested by the Reich; Czechoslovakia deserted and ruined by the Munich Pact, its fortress line in German hands, its mighty arsenal of Skoda henceforward making muitions for the German armies; President Roosevelt’s attempts to [intervene] waved aside with one hand, and Soviet Russia’s undoubted willingness to join the Western Powers and go all lengths to save Czechoslovakia ignored on the other; the services of thirty-five Czech divisions against the still unripened German Army cast away, when Great Britain could herself supply only two to strengthen the front in France; all gone with the wind.

***
… There was sense in fighting for Czechoslovakia in 1938 when the German Army could scarcely put half a dozen trained divisions on the Western Front, when the French  with nearly sixty or seventy divisions could most certainly have rollend forward across the Rhine or into the Ruhr.  But this had been judged unreasonable, rash, below the level of modern intellectual thought and morality…. History… may be scoured and ransacked to find a parallel to the sudden and complete reversal of five or six years’ policy of easy-going placatory appeasement, and its transformation almost overnight into a readiness to accept an obviously imminent war on far worse conditions and on the greatest scale.

This is the situation now facing us with Iran, but the indictment is far greater for us.    We have thrown away decades of advantage on “placatory appeasement” with Iran, refusing to confront their repeated attacks and declared ambitions to do us further harm.   “Death to the American Satan” was not just an idle slogans for the Regime in Tehran.

There were decades when the U.S. could have unseated the Regime.   From the very beginning in 1979 when the terror masters invaded our embassy and took our diplomats and Marines hostage, the U.S. had ample cause to take down the Regime.   But we had Jimmy Carter at the helm and he refused to act.   Reagan, George H. Bush, Clinton and George W. Bush all failed to take down the Regime despite clear provocations and at a time when the power of the Regime to retaliate was far weaker.  During this time, “regime change” was the stated and official U.S. policy.

Now it falls to this pitiful Administration to make the hard choice.   We refused to take action when action would have been comparatively easy.   Churchill’s words echo:  this was judged unreasonable, rash, below the level of modern intellectual thought and morality.    Now we are forced to confront a Regime that is far better armed, with weapons and means to inflict serious injury to our economy and well-being.

Here again Churchill speaks directly to us:

Still, if you will not fight for the right when you can easily win without bloodshed, if you will not fight when your victory will be sure and not too costly, you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a precarious chance of survival.  There may even be a worse case.  You may have to fight when there is no hope of victory, because it is better to perish than live as slaves.

The U.S. has certainly passed the first stage and the second stage.   Fighting now will certainly be costly, but hopefully not “precarious.”   Yet.  We dare not delay any longer.   If an Islamofascist Iran obtains a store of nuclear weapons  (assuming that they do not already have at least a few), things begin to look increasingly precarious.   May we never reach that stage.

Stupid Evangelical Tricks

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 9 months ago

The National Association of Evangelicals is calling for a reduction in the world’s nuclear weapons.

The group’s board of directors, which represents more than 45,000 local churches from over 40 different denominations, approved a resolution at its semiannual meeting in October encouraging the reductions as well as ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

The treaty, adopted by the United Nations in 1996, calls for a ban of all nuclear explosions though it has yet to be fully ratified.

Oh my.  We evangelicals do beclown ourselves, don’t we?  Actually, the policy statement is a thing to behold.  First off, its appeal to Ronald Reagan is disingenuous, and is similar to the gun control lobby’s appeal to Reagan.  It’s dishonest and never works.  Reagan supported gun rights, and Reagan ran the Soviet Union bankrupt with an arms buildup.  Peace through strength is not the same thing as trust through unilateral disarmament, and we all know it.  No one ever buys this approach, so it’s an enigma why anyone uses it.

Next, the appeal to “restraining evil” and “promoting peace and reconciliation” is simply absurd, and the Biblical data cited has nothing whatsoever to do with the policy statement or their position on nuclear weapons.  And to assume that a treaty would have any affect at all on rogue nations such as Iran is puerile (Iran’s intentions have to do with apocalyptic eschatology, and no treaty that the U.S. signs will have any affect at all on their quest to usher in the eschaton with violence).  The only nation(s) that would honor such a resolution or treaty would be the very nations that didn’t need the constraints of the treaty in the first place.  It’s rather like the arguments preached by gun control advocates.

Next, regarding pastoral concerns, they cite the promotion of trust on God, and cite Psalm 33:16-17 (I’ll use my favorite, the NASB).

The king is not saved by a mighty army;
A warrior is not delivered by great strength.

A horse is a false hope for victory;
Nor does it deliver anyone by its great strength.

And then they launch into gushing hand-wringing about cultivating love for our enemies and a concern for “dehumanizing” other people by targeting them with nuclear weapons.

Seriously.  You can’t make this up.  They use Biblical counsel regarding the state of the heart of individuals and their reliance on God as a justification for jettisoning nuclear weapons, obviously conflating that with the duty of governments to protect and secure the peace of its own people.

The authors of this tripe should have read Professor Darrell Cole’s paper on Good Wars, in which he uses Aquinas and Calvin to show how the Christian position on the state as the perpetrator of violence is not only not to be seen as an evil, or even a necessary evil, but a virtuous thing when done rightly.

The most noteworthy aspect of the moral approach to warfare in Aquinas and Calvin is that it teaches—contrary to today’s prevailing views—that a failure to engage in a just war is a failure of virtue, a failure to act well. An odd corollary of this conclusion is that it is a greater evil for Christians to fail to wage a just war than it is for unbelievers. When an unbeliever fails to go to war, the cause may be a lack of courage, prudence, or justice. He may be a coward or simply indifferent to evil. These are failures of natural moral virtue. When Christians (at least in the tradition of Aquinas and Calvin) fail to engage in just war, it may involve all of these natural failures as well, but it will also, and more significantly, involve a failure of charity. The Christian who fails to use force to aid his neighbor when prudence dictates that force is the best way to render that aid is an uncharitable Christian. Hence, Christians who willingly and knowingly refuse to engage in a just war do a vicious thing: they fail to show love toward their neighbor as well as toward God.

Sounds a bit different than the silly and shallow NAE position, no?  Then they drop this bit of insulting, moralistic hypocrisy into the policy statement.

The discovery of how to split the atom was a groundbreaking scientific and technological achievement involving large numbers of scientists, engineers and workers from many disciplines using their God-given talents. Today hundreds of thousands of Americans, both military and civilian, are directly or indirectly involved in the design, manufacture and deployment of nuclear weapons. Many of these people are members of our churches. They seek to use their gifts and skills to serve their nation.  Some are troubled by the ethical ambiguities of participation in an enterprise that involves producing weapons of mass destruction. Chaplains and pastors should avoid simplistic answers, but should rather guide their members in prayerful reflection, seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit as they wrestle with issues of profound moral consequence.

I doubt that the authors directly know even a single person who is involved with national laboratory work on nuclear weapons or even deploy them in the case of war.  But I do (on both accounts), and let me state that I know of no such “troubles” with “ethical ambiguities” with my friends.  And let me unequivocally state that the existence of nuclear weapons, far from promoting the diminution of world peace, is more responsible for world peace in the twentieth century than any other invention by mankind.  World War II was the last world war fought solely because of the existence of nuclear weapons.  And the authors of the policy have used the umbrella of peace that nuclear weapons have provided to craft their veiled and cowardly admonishments to nuclear workers and military servicemen.

I want to make one final point concerning the state of Christian scholarship and warfare.  I have thought more about war and warfare than 99.9999% of other Christians over the past five or so years, and I can honestly say that so-called just war theory is worthless in today’s world.

It was developed for a world that communicated by horse riders and signet rings, and archers lining up in fields against opposing lines from other countries, with border battles to see who would control nation-states.  It wasn’t developed for transnational insurgencies, large effect standoff weapons, terrorist bombings, fighters living and fighting among and from within their own people, real time intelligence, and targeted hits by UAVs.

In my 5+ years spent military blogging I have not referred to a single quote, citation, or word of any Christian scholar concerning just warfare – and it’s not because of the lack of trying.  It’s high time that the Christian community gathered serious scholars to tackle warfare in the twenty first century.  This NAE paper is neither serious nor scholarly.

And don’t come back with some claptrap about a pacifist Jesus.  Just go spend your time singing verses of John Lennon’s Imagine during your next worship service.  It would be ideologically similar to the paper, and artistically better than studying the policy statement.

UPDATE: The NAE’s Policy statement puts them squarely in line with Fidel Castro, who also believes that no country should have nuclear weapons.

Prior:

An Aging Nuclear Weapons Stockpile

Sounding the Nuclear Alarm

Unsecured Pakistani Nuclear Weapons

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 10 months ago

Settling a debate that has been waged for years, it is being reported that Pakistani nuclear weapons are vulnerable.

There is evidence to suggest that neither the Pakistani army, nor the SPD itself, considers jihadism the most immediate threat to the security of its nuclear weapons; indeed, General Kayani’s worry, as expressed to General Kidwai after Abbottabad, was focused on the United States. According to sources in Pakistan, General Kayani believes that the U.S. has designs on the Pakistani nuclear program, and that the Abbottabad raid suggested that the U.S. has developed the technical means to stage simultaneous raids on Pakistan’s nuclear facilities.

In their conversations, General Kidwai assured General Kayani that the counterintelligence branch of the SPD remained focused on rooting out American and Indian spies from the Pakistani nuclear-weapons complex, and on foiling other American espionage methods. The Pakistani air force drills its pilots in ways of intercepting American spy planes; the Pakistani military assumes (correctly) that the U.S. devotes many resources to aerial and satellite surveillance of its nuclear sites.

In their post-Abbottabad discussion, General Kayani wanted to know what additional steps General Kidwai was taking to protect his nation’s nuclear weapons from the threat of an American raid. General Kidwai made the same assurances he has made many times to Pakistan’s leaders: Pakistan’s program was sufficiently hardened, and dispersed, so that the U.S. would have to mount a sizable invasion of the country in order to neutralize its weapons; a raid on the scale of the Abbottabad incursion would simply not suffice.

Still, General Kidwai promised that he would redouble the SPD’s efforts to keep his country’s weapons far from the prying eyes, and long arms, of the Americans, and so he did: according to multiple sources in Pakistan, he ordered an increase in the tempo of the dispersal of nuclear-weapons components and other sensitive materials. One method the SPD uses to ensure the safety of its nuclear weapons is to move them among the 15 or more facilities that handle them. Nuclear weapons must go to the shop for occasional maintenance, and so they must be moved to suitably equipped facilities, but Pakistan is also said to move them about the country in an attempt to keep American and Indian intelligence agencies guessing about their locations.

Nuclear-weapons components are sometimes moved by helicopter and sometimes moved over roads. And instead of moving nuclear material in armored, well-defended convoys, the SPD prefers to move material by subterfuge, in civilian-style vehicles without noticeable defenses, in the regular flow of traffic. According to both Pakistani and American sources, vans with a modest security profile are sometimes the preferred conveyance. And according to a senior U.S. intelligence official, the Pakistanis have begun using this low-security method to transfer not merely the “de-mated” component nuclear parts but “mated” nuclear weapons. Western nuclear experts have feared that Pakistan is building small, “tactical” nuclear weapons for quick deployment on the battlefield. In fact, not only is Pakistan building these devices, it is also now moving them over roads.

What this means, in essence, is this: In a country that is home to the harshest variants of Muslim fundamentalism, and to the headquarters of the organizations that espouse these extremist ideologies, including al-Qaeda, the Haqqani network, and Lashkar-e-Taiba (which conducted the devastating terror attacks on Mumbai three years ago that killed nearly 200 civilians), nuclear bombs capable of destroying entire cities are transported in delivery vans on congested and dangerous roads. And Pakistani and American sources say that since the raid on Abbottabad, the Pakistanis have provoked anxiety inside the Pentagon by increasing the pace of these movements. In other words, the Pakistani government is willing to make its nuclear weapons more vulnerable to theft by jihadists simply to hide them from the United States, the country that funds much of its military budget.

Jeffrey Goldberg and Marc Ambinder, writing for The Atlantic, continue with a discussion of the always bad but increasingly tense and distrusting relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan.  Eventually they get to possible broad stroke scenarios for well-rehearsed or even exigent military operations to secure Pakistani nuclear weapons in the case of a jihadist coup that leaves Pakistan without central authority (presumably, this could only happen in the case of collusion between jihadist elements and Pakistani ISI and elements of its military).

Much more challenging than capturing and disabling a loose nuke or two, however, would be seizing control of—or at least disabling—the entire Pakistani nuclear arsenal in the event of a jihadist coup, civil war, or other catastrophic event. This “disablement campaign,” as one former senior Special Operations planner calls it, would be the most taxing, most dangerous of any special mission that JSOC could find itself tasked with—orders of magnitude more difficult and expansive than Abbottabad. The scale of such an operation would be too large for U.S. Special Operations components alone, so an across-the-board disablement campaign would be led by U.S. Central Command—the area command that is responsible for the Middle East and Central Asia, and runs operations in Afghanistan and Iraq—and U.S. Pacific Command.

JSOC would take the lead, however, accompanied by civilian experts, and has been training for such an operation for years. JSOC forces are trained to breach the inner perimeters of nuclear installations, and then to find, secure, evacuate—or, if that’s not possible, to “render safe”—any live weapons. At the Nevada National Security Site, northwest of Las Vegas, Delta Force and SEAL Team Six squadrons practice “Deep Underground Shelter” penetrations, using extremely sensitive radiological detection devices that can pick up trace amounts of nuclear material and help Special Operations locate the precise spot where the fissile material is stored. JSOC has also built mock Pashtun villages, complete with hidden mock nuclear-storage depots, at a training facility on the East Coast, so SEALs and Delta Force operatives can practice there.

At the same time American military and intelligence forces have been training in the U.S for such a disablement campaign, they have also been quietly pre-positioning the necessary equipment in the region. In the event of a coup, U.S. forces would rush into the country, crossing borders, rappelling down from helicopters, and parachuting out of airplanes, so they could begin securing known or suspected nuclear-storage sites. According to the former senior Special Operations planner, JSOC units’ first tasks might be to disable tactical nuclear weapons—because those are more easily mated, and easier to move around, than long-range missiles.

In a larger disablement campaign, the U.S. would likely mobilize the Army’s 20th Support Command, whose Nuclear Disablement Teams would accompany Special Operations detachments or Marine companies into the country. These teams are trained to engage in what the military delicately calls “sensitive site exploitation operations on nuclear sites”—meaning that they can destroy a nuclear weapon without setting it off. Generally, a mated nuclear warhead can be deactivated when its trigger mechanism is disabled—and so both the Army teams and JSOC units train extensively on the types of trigger mechanisms that Pakistani weapons are thought to use. According to some scenarios developed by American war planners, after as many weapons as possible were disabled and as much fissile material as possible was secured, U.S. troops would evacuate quickly—because the final stage of the plan involves precision missile strikes on nuclear bunkers, using special “hard and deeply buried target” munitions.

But nuclear experts issue a cautionary note: it is not clear that American intelligence can identify the locations of all of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, particularly after the Abbottabad raid.

This discussion is interesting, and provides perhaps the most comprehensive assessment to date (in the public domain) of what a military operation to secure Pakistani nuclear weapons might look like, and what are its chances of success.

I have briefly weighed in before on this, and to expand my thoughts, Goldberg and Ambinder’s description leaves a significant amount out of the equation (either because they didn’t report on it or because the Pentagon hasn’t considered it in war gaming scenarios).

First, while the Marines are mentioned in the planning, I believe that they would have to play a much larger role than described by the authors for the simple reason that long range planning is irrelevant.  There aren’t enough special operations troopers who can be permanently assigned the billet of waiting until Pakistan appears to be teetering on the brink of disaster to respond.

To be sure, while such an operation would rely heavily on SEALs, Delta Force and other elements of special operations, including Rangers, this would require force protection in the thousands while special operations breached the compounds and located the weapons.  No branch of the service has this kind of “force in readiness” but the Marines.  Rangers and other troops are needed in other parts of the world conducting critical missions.  They can’t sit and wait until Pakistan devolves into chaos.  They’re busy troops.

But this magnitude of operation would require even more than an infantry battalion in a MEU (Marine Expeditionary Unit).  It would require several infantry battalions, with both ingress and egress by helicopter.  The fleet of helicopters would number in the hundreds, including transport and attack assets.  The general air support would include overwatch, communications and surveillance, refueling aircraft, fighters, and UAVs.  Notwithstanding the surgical strike that the Pentagon war gamers would like to imagine, this would be a very large scale operation.

Before such an operation even began it would be necessary to know, at least to some extent, the make, composition and enrichment of the weapons.  Loading multiple nuclear weapons on board a single aircraft bringing them in proximity with each other might create an operating nuclear reactor (Keff = 1) on board the aircraft unless criticality safety calculations were performed by qualified nuclear engineers prior to the operation to prove otherwise.  This might mean that each weapon required its own, individual transport out of the country if it is not destroyed in place.

Next, Goldberg and Ambinder mention it, but it bears repeating and emphasizing.  We probably didn’t have the human intelligence before the Bin Laden raid to pull off an operation this intelligence-driven, much less do we now.  As if we need further proof of the HUMINT anemia at the CIA, this recent report brings disturbing news.

In an anonymous industrial park in Virginia, in an unassuming brick building, the CIA is following tweets — up to 5 million a day.

At the agency’s Open Source Center, a team known affectionately as the “vengeful librarians” also pores over Facebook, newspapers, TV news channels, local radio stations, Internet chat rooms — anything overseas that anyone can access and contribute to openly.

From Arabic to Mandarin Chinese, from an angry tweet to a thoughtful blog, the analysts gather the information, often in native tongue. They cross-reference it with the local newspaper or a clandestinely intercepted phone conversation. From there, they build a picture sought by the highest levels at the White House, giving a real-time peek, for example, at the mood of a region after the Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden or perhaps a prediction of which Mideast nation seems ripe for revolt.

It’s doubtful that tweets or facebook will do anything for us concerning knowledge of the whereabouts of Pakistani nuclear assets.  Finally, the U.S. would have to have a President who had the stomach to pull all of this off.  The losses could be significant, and there is at least the possibility, perhaps even the probability, that some nuclear assets would be left behind or that the operation would be a colossal failure.  The President would have to explain to the American public why he undertook such an action regardless of the outcome.

But the importance of planning and war gaming cannot be underestimated.  Consider what a nuclear weapon in the hands of the jihadists would do in New York, Houston, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Saint Louis, Charlotte or Denver?  In light of this report, the war gaming needs to ingest serious dose of reality, start over, and then take a gigantic step forward.


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