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4 HA: Nukes, Poisons, Germs Archives

Recently in 4 HA: Nukes, Poisons, Germs Category

May 10, 2010

What's Killing Afghanistan's Poppies?

By Joe Katzman at 16:51

Because something certainly seems to be doing so. My personal guess, shared by a friend of mine, is pleospora papaveracea, a fungus that attacks poppies, but leaves other plants alone.

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...

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April 10, 2010

Missing Bipolar nuclear Deterrence

By Armed Liberal at 04:32

Rev. Sensing has a post up that mirrors what I was going to write about nuclear deterrence.

I'll be honest enough to say that I don't know enough - yet - to know what impact the new agreements really will have; that'll take some time.

But for myself, I kinda liked bipolar nuclear deterrence - and I think we'll all miss it.

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  • David Blue: Armed Liberal: "But for myself, I kinda liked bipolar nuclear read more
  • David Blue: I do know not what Moscow's reaction would be if read more
  • toc3: So does that mean that you would know what Moscow's read more

Israel's Operation Orchard: The Destruction of Al-Kibar's Reactor

By Joe Katzman at 01:35

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 Story of 'Operation Orchard': How Israel Destroyed Syria's Al Kibar Nuclear Reactor"

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  • mark buehner: What a stupid comment that chuck cited. There's an old read more
  • Barry Meislin: Well, you know, Germans (or Russian, or Americans, or Brits, read more
  • chuck: This is what caught my eye, The attack was filmed read more

November 17, 2009

Hersh Asks: How Safe are Pakistan's Nukes?

By Joe Katzman at 06:10

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...

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  • Silverlake Bodhisattva: JK: I've been following that clock since the late 60's; read more
  • Alchemist: What I have been saying Joe, is that while many read more
  • Joe Katzman: The clock should be higher. This is not the same read more

June 23, 2009

EMP? Don't Lose Any Sleep This Year

By Armed Liberal at 06:32

The subject of EMP is red-hot this week, as a new novel about America after electronics - 'One Second After.'

Again, I haven't read the book (yet -I will) and I'm no expert on the effects of nuclear weapons. But some amateur math confirms the gut impression that a small (10 - 20Kt) weapon isn't going to have a massive national impact.

I'm bringing forward a post I did back in 2006 below so you can check my math:

OK, I'm looking at the likely effects of EMP and doing the classic blogger thing of dipping into serious issues as a rank amateur. But I may be right, and if not, I'll trigger a darn interesting discussion.

TG works close to the Los Angeles Public Library, and we have a deal where I'll find a book I'm interested in, email her the catalog link, and she'll pick it up and bring it home for me. The Department of Homeland Security is doubtless interested in her borrowing habits...

Today, she brought home Glasstone & Dolan's "The Effects of Nuclear Weapons," Third Edition.

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  • mark buehner: Hemp can do anything, man. But the man doesn't want read more
  • J Aguilar: Harsher environment, I meant. Furthermore, high altitude EMP radiation is read more
  • J Aguilar: It took them only hours to identify bin Laden's involvement read more

EMP, Again

By Armed Liberal at 05:55

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.

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  • Brian C: Actually if you look at Starfish Prime and several other read more
  • Kirk Parker: Hey TOC--on the assumption that you write comments so that read more
  • virgil xenophon: I want to hark back to my first post(#1) and read more

Walking away from a very good deal

By Nitin Pai at 09:00

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.

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  • hss: If purpose of india-US deal is to have a 'balance' read more
  • Nitin: Andy, What lesson do you think Iran and North Korea read more
  • Jim Rockford: Andy -- NPT is as dead as the dodo. Pakistan read more

Nicht Zum Kernkrieg, As They Say

By Armed Liberal at 06:46

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...

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  • Avatar: One wonders if we had anything to do with Soviet read more
  • Cylinder: Thanks for the map. I served on a MPC for read more
  • Jay Manifold: Yep, that saber-rattling Reagan got the world blown up. Oops, read more

December 11, 2006

The clash of convictions and the remaking of the world of wars

By Nitin Pai at 05:54

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.

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  • sanity: Ref no 32, by Fletcher Christian; I live in the read more
  • mrsizer: I've come to agree with Paul (#29): Withdraw. Very loudly read more
  • Fletcher Christian: If we (not just the USA, the entire West) are read more

Fibonacci's Nukes II: The Road to Atomic Perdition

By Joe Katzman at 05:12

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:

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  • DoctorD: What will happen if the US Nukes Iran? The US read more
  • Jj: Masculine Islam will be declared incompatable with civilized nations. read more
  • David Blue: Fudge, that should have been Carnage and Culture: Landmark Battles read more

October 14, 2006

Speaking Of Nuclear Deterrence...

By Armed Liberal at 01:05

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."

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  • E. T.: Please note North Korea's interest in multilateral meetings again: read more
  • grackle: U.S. intelligence agencies believed it came from North Korea but read more
  • Daniel Markham: Here's another good article talking about the new nuclear deterrence read more

Tim Oren's Nuclear Strawman

By Armed Liberal at 01:17
In the comments to my 'Godfather' post below, Tim Oren made a really smart comment that elaborated on my idea and turned it into something vaguely practical:
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.

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  • Joe Katzman: December 2006 - a Foreign Policy article comes out offering read more
  • FormerDem: Tim, Your strawman's new hat doesn't really change anything; it read more
  • Daniel Markham: Note to posters. Looks like if you have more than read more
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