That certainly seems to fit reports from the field - and it would neatly sidestep the central military-political problem created by conventional anti-poppy efforts, while providing a boost for programs aimed at a farmer-centric approach to counterinsurgency.
Well, well, isn't that convenient? Then again...
The fungus is found in India, Nepal, and Pakistan, so it could be natural. Especially given the Taliban's kick-up of cross-border people flows who handle poppies on both side of the border.
On the other hand, it could also be introduced; the American strategy does indeed seem to quietly revolve around sitting on the poppy growers in Helmland, per Staretgy Page's "This Is The Plan". On the contra side, George W. Bush reportedly considered using pleospora in Afghanistan, but firmly rejected it. It's possible that Obama has decided to use biological warfare, I suppose, and the recent outbreak reflects that.
But how would we know?
That's the thing with biological attacks. Unless you're dealing with clearly unnatural mutations, like chimera viruses, you can't be sure it isn't natural. It doesn't take many people to implement. And even if it clearly isn't natural, you can't usually tell where it's from with any certainty.
Something to contemplate, as we face a religion for whom suicide-murder attacks on civilians have become, among many, the highest moral example. The pushback created in places like Iraq, where they were forced to engage and endanger their own co-religionists on a regular basis, has blunted that thirst - but not removed it. The Islamic civil war for the religion's soul continues. The winning side is very much in doubt. And the clock of falling technology curves still ticks....
Der Speigel has spent a lot of time putting the pieces together regarding Israel's September 2007 air strike that destroyed the Syrian-Iranian-North Korean reactor at Al-Kibar. Their report makes for very interesting, even compelling, reading.
The New yorker has an article from Seymour Hersh (yeah, I know) called "Defending the Arsenal: In an unstable Pakistan, can nuclear warheads be kept safe?"
To me, the title falls into the "Duh, of course not" category, especially as you lengthen the time horizon. Some of the folks I talk to say the best hope for Pakistan is a losing civil war that takes a while, because then there might be time and space get key bomb materials/ components out. Now throw in all the Muslim states that have informed the IAEA they're starting nuclear energy programs, and the odds of a nuclear war in my lifetime closely approach 1.0.
I suppose this may come as news to some of the uneducated readers of the New Yorker, who know only what their college professors and the New York Times have deigned to tell them. If so, Hersh may have done a service.
Interesting to see one of the principals in Hari's "Renouncing Islamism" piece indirectly referenced in Hersh's article, though...
Here's what I learned. To maximize EMP effect, the weapon has to explode at an altitude of over 19 miles - there's a dramatic increase in the amount of gamma converted to electricity at that height. The EMP effect is generally limited to the line-of-sight to the weapon, and does diminish somewhat as the weapon explodes at greater and greater heights - because more of the gamma radiation which is converted to electrical energy by the atmosphere is radiated upward.
The end result of my quick Excel calculations is the energy per square mile would vary between 0.03 joules/mile for a 10KT weapon detonated 15 miles up, with an effective radius of 350 miles and 17,800 joules/mile over an area with a radius of 1500 miles for a 1 megaton blast at 300 miles up.
Now this may sound like a lot, but recall that a lightning bolt has about 109 - 1010 joules.
And a Shahab-1 has a maximum height of about 55 miles.
Here's some math [formatting fixed by Joe]. There are three cases for calculating EMP; ground burst, mid-level air burst, and high-altitude burst.
High-altitude is defined as over 19 miles; there the effect is far greater (more of the gamma radiation from the weapon interacts with the atmosphere, creating a plasma, and thus the burst of electrical energy).
For a high-altitude burst, about 10-2 of the gamma radiation is transferred to EMP. For a mid-altitude burst, it's about 10-7. For a one-megaton weapon, the total energy output is about 4.2 × 1022 ergs. About 3 × 10-3 of that becomes gamma radiation, or 1.26 × 1020 ergs.
At low altitude, this yields about 1.26 × 1013 ergs, at high altitude, about 1.26 × 1018.
In joules, that's about 1.26 × 106 for low altitude, and 1.26 × 1011 for high. It's linear to weapon yield, so a 10 KT weapon would have 1.26 × 104 at low altitude and 1.26 × 109 at high.
But that area is dispersed over a wide area - the total energy matters, but the energy density matters as well (total energy matters more in effects on long conductors, like power lines).
Even at very high altitudes, the EMP effect is limited to the 'tangent radius' of the blast - the height at which it goes below the horizon. So at a 15-mile blast height, the radius looks like 350 miles. At 300 miles, it would be about 1500 miles.
So, as above the energy per square mile would vary between 0.03 joules/mile for a 10KT weapon at 15 miles, with an effective radius of 350 miles; and 17,800 joules/mile over an area with a radius of 1500 miles for a 1 megaton blast at 300 miles.
What's my point?
When Iran or whoever can develop weapons with yields in the megaton range, and the ability to deliver them to a height of 300 miles, we need to worry about EMP. Until then, I'd say we've got other problems.
Corrections and comments welcome...
There's a lot of chatter about Iranian EMP again (it seems to come back periodically). here's Walid Phares over at the Counterterrorism Blog:
Over the past seven months I have been interacting with US Homeland Security and European defense officials and experts on a the potential next threat to the West, more particularly against mainland America. The signature of that strategic menace is EMP: Electro Magnetic Pulse; a weapon of the future, already available in design, construction and possible deployment. As eyes are focused on the Iranian nuclear threat, and as we began recently to understand that the missile advances are as important then the fissile material development, attention is now being drawn by private sector projects and some in the defense world to what can cause a wider circle of damages and thus more deterrence against US national security.
In short, and I borrow from the Project "Shield America.org," an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack could be triggered by a nuclear warhead detonated at high altitude over America. The resulting blast would create an EMP, a shockwave that could "cripple military and civilian communications, power, transportation, water, food, and other infrastructure." Even if a high-altitude EMP kills nobody at first, it would paralyze a large section of the United States. The lingering practical and economic effects would take anywhere from hours to years to resolve: when secondary effects are considered, an EMP could be even deadlier than a direct nuclear strike against the mainland. Indeed, Rep. Roscoe Bartlett has written: "Where the terrorist airliner attacks of 9/11 killed thousands, a terrorist EMP attack could indirectly kill millions and conceivably cause the permanent collapse of our entire society."
I've written about that before, and done a little bit of math on it. I'm certainly no arms control wonk, but what I came away with was the belief that it would take a 1 MT weapon detonated about 19 - 20 miles up to have a meaningful impact as opposed to a relatively local impact.
I've gotta believe that no new nuclear power is likely to come out of the box with a 1 MT weapon, and that the technology to get it 20 miles above New Jersey isn't something that Iran will be able to do soon enough - reliably enough (remember, no do-overs on something like this) to risk their national survival on a prototype.
The Acorn has been a supporter of the India-US nuclear deal as concluded between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President George Bush in March 2006. It has argued that for India, the benefits of the deal are worth making some difficult concessions---separating civilian nuclear facilities from military ones, and accepting constraints on the amount of fissile material India needs to produce nuclear weapons. The agreement allows India to retain a dynamic credible nuclear deterrent---although the contours of the deterrence need to change---while ending its costly isolation from the international nuclear power industry. The deal, moreover, is also part of a strategic transformation of relations with the United States mandated by convergence of interests in the geopolitics of the twenty-first century.
The Hyde Act, passed by the US Congress last year, introduced a qualitative change in the letter and spirit of the agreement that negotiators worked so hard to achieve. It has raised several contentious issues, but the most significant one involves linking America's keeping its end of the deal (to supply nuclear technology and fuel for India's civilian nuclear power industry) to India's non-testing of nuclear weapons.
This is over and above India agreeing to isolate its civilian facilities from the weapons programmes, and agreeing to safeguards to ensure that there is no illegal transfer from one to the other. [Read what prominent Indian strategic analysts have to say]
By insisting that in the event of an Indian nuclear test, the United States can not only suspend fuel supplies, but seek possession of material already supplied, the Hyde Act seeks to ban India from further testing. In other words, it seeks to turn India's unilateral moratorium on further testing into a bilateral legality. The United States is also pressing other members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group to insist on the same conditions. [Related Posts: Cynical Nerd & Maverick]
By evoking memories of past letdowns, the Hyde Act has already undermined the benefits that might have accrued to the American nuclear power industry. Even if India were to accept the terms of the Hyde Act in totality, it would hedge its risks by not relying on nuclear energy as much as it would have without the onerous conditions. That would make the market for nuclear energy smaller that it would otherwise have been. And it would be even smaller for American suppliers, as India would move to ensure greater supply diversity. In other words, India would minimize reliance on nuclear energy and American suppliers in order to minimize the costs of testing nuclear weapons should the need arise.
Moreover, other than pure dogma, it is unclear how America stands to benefit preventing India from conducting another nuclear test. Moratorium or not, no government in India would be foolish enough to attract international opprobrium by conducting unilateral tests again. India is only likely to test should other nuclear powers begin to do so again. Indeed, the United States can use the possibility of an Indian test to discourage other nuclear powers from testing. That possibility would vanish if India is legally bound not to test.
The negotiations on the "123 agreement" are far from over, and the deal is far from dead. It is a deal that is worth having, both for its own sake and for the sake of the broader bilateral relationship. So a degree of mutual compromise is in order, even if the terms of the 123 agreement are in variance with what was agreed between Prime Minister Singh and President Bush. This does not, however, mean that the deal is worth having at all costs. Even if historical and current context were to be ignored, there is no question of India accepting a formal legal restraint on its nuclear options. America is constrained by its laws. But India cannot allow those laws to circumscribe its strategic independence. If diplomacy fails to address its concerns, India should be prepared to walk away from the deal.
The Polish government, in an effort to "...draw a line under the country's Communist past, and "educate" the Polish public about the old regime" has released the documents from a 1979 Eastern Bloc war game, in which Poland is sacrificed to Allied nuclear weapons blocking Soviet reinforcements, and Soviet citybusters strike most Western European cities. Note that the Soviets did not expect NATO to launch against Eastern cities.
The new conservative government that released them said "It's important for citizens to know who was a hero, and who was a villain. It is important for the civic health of society to make these things public."
I'm less sanguine; I'm thinking it's possible we have files full of similar plans.
But it's both important to note what the Soviet military leadership expected from us - and planned to do about it - and to put into context the challenges and risks we face as compared to those we faced as recently as the 1980's.
Lots has improved since then. But we do have a ways to go...
The outcome of modern wars is decided in the mind
Armed combat, of course, is not about to disappear, although it may increasingly take the form of 'asymmetric warfare' as seen in Iraq and Afghanistan. It could also take the shape of proxy war, like the one India is fighting in Jammu & Kashmir and the United States and NATO are fighting in Afghanistan. But days in which armed combat alone decided the fate of wars ended a long time ago: with World War II and perhaps, the India-Pakistan war of 1971.
This is old hat. All out war became unimaginable as soon as the major powers acquired nuclear weapons. Those that didn't have their own usually came under the umbrella of one of those that did. The game of nuclear deterrence--in spite of bizarrely escalating to the level where there were thousands of warheads--kept the peace. The stability/instability paradox argued that while nuclear deterrence ensured stability at the highest (nuclear) level of escalation, it nevertheless created instability at lower (non-nuclear) levels. The United States relied on this to drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan. But the Pakistani general staff realised just how low the ceiling was at Kargil in 1999-2000. They were fine so long as they were only arming and injecting jihadis into Jammu & Kashmir. But when they decided to take a step further and actually try to capture and hold territory, they quickly found out exactly where the buck stopped.
But the outcome of most of these asymmetrical, low-intensity wars can go either way.
The larger and more powerful combatant uses a fraction of its total available strength in these conflicts and can theoretically fight hard enough to destroy its opponent in short order if it can somehow accept the massive collateral damage that this will inevitably result in. Theoretically, it can also fight long enough to frustrate the opponent into defeat if it can somehow stay in there for as long as it takes. Armed combat is a tool in this war, a sort of a meta-weapon that a state deploys in some fronts. It can, at times, produce decisive results---but is bounded by whether it is given the time and resources to have a chance of doing so.
By most definitions of victory, India won the Kargil war in 1999. But it miserably failed in the battle (yes, it was a battle) of Kandahar in 2000, when the NDA government gift-wrapped and hand-delivered the ransom that Pakistan sought. India is committed for the long-haul in Kashmir: and despite the Manmohan Singh government's confused vacillations, this is unlikely to change. Over in Assam though, the commitment to defeat ULFA waxes and wanes. Meanwhile, India's military intervention in Sri Lanka in the late 1980s is seen as a failure causing an overreaction that has made subsequent governments reluctant to use force in the neighbourhood. The United States too lost in Viet Nam, won in Afghanistan (in the 1980s), in Iraq (in 1990). It now stands on the verge of losing Afghanistan II and Iraq II. In almost all these cases India and the United States were the stronger, better-equipped combatants. Yet they lost some and they won some. Why?
Because the outcome of the war was decided not on the battlefield. It was decided in a battle of minds, in a battle of collective resolve and in a battle in the court of public opinion. Kargil was won because Indians were overwhelmingly in support of the cause. For the same reason, India is prosecuting the long war in Kashmir. Kandahar was lost because public opinion was manipulated into 'saving the hostages at all costs'. In Sri Lanka and periodically in India's North Eastern state of Assam, domestic public opinion was against the further use of force. Similar reasons apply to the United States in its Iraqi and Afghan outings.
That public opinion matters is not new. Public support for the cause and morale during the war itself were always important. What is new is that the outcome of the war itself is increasingly decided by public opinion--with all its uncertainties, vagaries, whims and susceptibility to manipulation. Of course, this has been true in authoritarian states and closed societies for a long time, where the outcome is unquestionably what the regime says it is. In democratic societies with a free (and freewheeling media) the outcome of wars is becoming what public opinion says it is.
This poses a special challenge to open and secular democracies where there is no supremacist religion or ideology that has an irrational hold on the mind, and the media is more susceptible to manipulation by cynicism, populism or worse, by enemy interests. Indeed, technological change has shifted the control over mass media from the government to corporations and eventually, to citizens themselves. No longer can governments use their exclusive control of the "channels" to spread their "message".
What this means, in effect, is that citizens have become combatants in the war of convictions. The side that believes that it has won wins. The side that believes it has lost loses. It is misleading to think of this as being about propaganda or public relations theatre, which though important, can be exposed or seen through. It is about truth, not necessarily the objective truth, but what is widely regarded to be true. The study of how public opinion forms has become all the more important. What instruments should the state have to fight this war? How should it equip its citizens? More importantly, what are the rules of the game? Is it even possible to 'win' wars any more?
Centuries ago, war was all out combat between one group against another; the distinction between combatants and non-combatants came later as a moral upgrade to that ugly business. Wars then largely became contests between armed forces of countries (although non-combatants continued to be killed). In the nuclear era, war became a game played by the strategic elite. The war of the future may go back a full circle--pitting entire populations, combatants and non-combatants alike in a complex clash of convictions.
So, all kinds of American election races are going on... and here's my prediction. About 20 years from now, the vast majority of you won't even think of these elections as a footnote in history. Instead, November 2006 will be remembered as the month that made atomic war all but inevitable, and ushered in a new age of world history.
In Britain's The Times Online, Richard Beeston reports that 4-6 Arab states announced that they were embarking on programs to master atomic technology [also RCI]:
"The countries involved were named by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as Algeria, Egypt, Morocco and Saudi Arabia. Tunisia and the UAE have also shown interest...."
Mark Fitzpatrick, an expert on nuclear proliferation... "If Iran was not on the path to a nuclear weapons capability you would probably not see this sudden rush [in the Arab world]," he said.
He's almost right. If Iran was not on the path to a nuclear weapons capability with no meaningful checks in sight and none even imagined by the majority of Western policy-makers, plus tacit support from Russia and China, you probably would not see this sudden rush. But it is, and they do, and you're seeing it. And if you believe the bit about powering de-salination plants, you're dumber than all the dirt in Arabia.
Back in October 2003, I penned "Fibonacci's Nukes: Is Proliferation Unstoppable?" noting the accelerating failure of global non-proliferation mechanisms. That failure is now all but certain.
Corollary: As these regimes pursue their programs, the probability of atomic war rises toward 100% in our lifetime. Note the regimes, and their prospects:
That's 3 of the 4 with future prospects that range from shaky to dubious to deeply dubious, and a takeover by al-Qaeda itself or a very similar movement as the alternative futures. The implications of seeking "stability" through such allies are rarely pondered, rarest of all by those who laughably call themselves "foreign policy realists." If you think Pakistan was bad, just wait until we're faced with a world where several even less stable Islamic states have nuclear weapons, still others are spurred to follow, and all it takes is one failure to essentially hand al-Qaeda the nuclear weapons it has promised that it will use.
Assuming, of course, that nothing else goes wrong, from an intra-Muslim war, to escalation involving Israel that invokes the "Samson Strategy" of destroying all of its enemies as it goes down, to a breakdown of control within these famously fragmented and corrupt societies that ends up handing a weapon over to the Chechens or some such.
Wretchard's famous 3 conjectures, and related posts, talked about the current window of time as equivalent to "the golden hour" during which a trauma patient can still be saved and death averted. This announcement tells us, very clearly and in no uncertain terms, that The Golden Hour has just about passed us by. Welcome to a future in which the use of nuclear weapons in war approaches certainty, followed by the inevitable responses. Welcome, in other words, to Fibonacci's propagating nuclear spiral of a multi-proliferation future. One that features nuclear weapons in the hands of death-cult barbarians, the vast majority of whom grew up in an atmosphere glorifying suicide-martyrdom as mankind's greatest moral achievement.
The world in which your children will live.
I reiterate my prediction of 10-100 million dead within the next 2 decades. Or maybe numbers don't do it for you, and you'd rather read this story as a kind of mental intro. to the sorts of futures to prepare for.
Have a nice day.
Here's a good NYT article suggesting that the Administration is looking at new deterrence models, and on the technical difficulties involved in doing so:
Security specialists said Mr. Bush's warning signaled a significant expansion of longstanding policies of deterrence, extending the threat of reprisals to the transfer of nuclear weapons or materials to another country or to terrorists.
That has long been a concern about the North Korean program, but the tools to prevent it are still limited.
Robert Joseph, the under secretary of state for arms control and international security, said in an interview on Thursday that "to be credible, declaratory policy must be backed up by effective capabilities."
The Pentagon, in carrying out one of its most sensitive missions, maintains a team of nuclear experts to analyze the fallout from any nuclear attack by terrorists, not only to identify the attackers but also to figure out where they got their bomb.And what it means:
Separately, the International Atomic Energy Agency, a United Nations unit based in Vienna, compiles identifying markers drawn from the chemistry and physics of processes that produce radioactive material in nuclear programs around the world.
Using that kind of data and technology, it might be possible to figure out the likely origin of an intercepted shipment of bomb material ... or of the radioactive debris of a weapon that was used. The atomic energy agency's inspectors have significant records from their time in North Korea before they were expelled, and they could rule out many other possible sources of radioactive material by calling on records from nations that cooperate with the agency.
Mr. Bush's statement was viewed by national security experts as a major shift in deterrence doctrine, one that acknowledges that the mission today is no longer preventing North Korea from building a nuclear weapon, but deterring its use or transfer.And why it's hard:
"The administration will continue saying that a nuclear weapon in North Korea is unacceptable, but in fact they are beginning to accept it," said Scott D. Sagan, director of Stanford University's Center for International Security and Cooperation. "The administration is switching from a nonproliferation policy to a deterrence and defense policy. It is a form of containment rather than a form of nonproliferation."
...while the Bush administration at first charged that North Korea had been the source of Libya's uranium, experts spent months trying to determine whether the contents of the cask had come from there as well or whether it had been filled up elsewhere. The result: plenty of suspicions, but no hard proof.
"We took months and months and months and still couldn't come to a 100 percent conclusion," one senior administration official said this year. "That happens. But it doesn't help you justify a counterstrike against someone."
May I suggest an alternative framing that may find some common ground? In the commentary here and on Joe's post there's at minimum a volks-wisdom that we can grudgingly trust some newer nuke powers to act responsibly - India, Israel, China (let's hope), but others we cannot: NK, Pakistan, Iran. Is question is how to convert that intuition into a framing that is understandable by all, not seen to be simply arbitrary, and is utterly convincing to transgressors in regards of their fate. It should also be able to survive the probably inevitable further proliferation of nuclear power reactors. In short, a de facto effective 'Nuclear Proliferation Treaty', with nasty, sharp, pointy teeth.
- All participating nuclear powers provide samples of output of their reactors to all other powers. If any power is ever caught not doing so, through the national intelligence means of any other power, they are out of the agreement.
- All non-participating powers are in one equivalence class. They may come into compliance only by agreeing and conforming to the above, to the satisfaction of all the currently complying powers.
- Any conventionally or unconventionally delivered nuke having the signature of one of the participating powers makes that party culpable. (A powerful incentive to report any fissile materials losses and enlist everyone in cleaning them up.)
- Any conventionally or unconventionally delivered nuke having no known signature, or one known to originate from a noncompliant power by national intelligence means, means that all noncompliant powers are jointly culpable.
- The target of an attack may deal with the culpable party or parties by any means it feels necessary. Other compliant powers may assist in this, but none will oppose.
This might be stable if enough of the incumbent nuke powers agreed to it as a de facto doctrine. The disclosure part is close enough to the current, ineffective NPT compliance regime that that it might be workable, at least technically.Tear it up...
I have a few issues - the notion that all noncomplaint powers are jointly responsible is something that will take some serious thought.
But it actually may be a basis for a longer-term stable regime than the shotgun hooked to the piece of string proposal that I originally made, because a) it divides the nuclear world into those that embrace transparency and are willing to be held explicitly accountable, and those who are not; and b) it provides strong incentives to move from the latter to former category.