Proliferation Press

A webpage devoted to tracking and analyzing current events related to the proliferation of WMD/CBRN.

Archive for December 6th, 2006

News Flash: Bush’s “Get Tough” North Korean Diplomacy Gets Real

Posted by K.E. White on December 6, 2006

The NYTimes reports today on a comprehensive package of economic aid the U.S. has offered to North Korea if it stops parts of its nuclear project and returns to negotiations.

I guess approach of “first ignore, second threaten, third stonewall” has finally run its course.

Could this be the first step towards a resolution? The International Herald Tribune reports on the possibility that North Korea would nuclearly disarm if America removes its nuclear weapons from South Korea and other regional nations.

Posted in Diplomacy, North Korea, Proliferation News | Leave a Comment »

Blog-on-Blog: Reading the Iraq Study Group Report

Posted by K.E. White on December 6, 2006

by kwhite

Daniel L. Byman’s article Even the Wise Men Can’t Save Us in Iraq, appearing in the Dec. 3rd WaPo, on the Iraq Study Group has turned out to be right on the money. Additionally, it provides a historical view of commissions in American political history.

While I took the liberty to cut this Brookings Senior fellow’s report down to increase its readability, I took no liberities with its analysis.

Byman’s Main Points:

  • Imagine if the Iraq Study Group concludes that there are few good options for Iraq. Such a conclusion would be patently true, but would disappoint everyone and also lead to questions about why the panel existed at all.
    • This seems to be what the Commission has done:

v “A premature American departure from Iraq would almost certainly produce greater sectarian violence and further deterioration of conditions, leading to a number of the adverse consequences outlined above.” (page 37)

v “Current U.S. policy is not working, as the level of violence in Iraq is rising and the government is not advancing national reconciliation. Making no changes in policy would simply delay the day of reckoning at a high cost.” (page 38)

v “Sustained increases in U.S. troop levels would not solve the fundamental cause of violence in Iraq, which is the absence of national reconciliation.” (page 38)

v “The costs associated with devolving Iraq into three semiautonomous regions with loose central control would be too high.” (page 39)

  • To date, neither the administration nor Democrats have admitted the horrific costs of either staying in Iraq or withdrawing troops…But broadly speaking, there is no technical fix to Iraq…And technical answers don’t address the most difficult political questions: What are U.S. interests in Iraq? How would a pullout affect U.S. interests beyond Iraq? And how many more American lives and taxpayer dollars will we risk to protect those interests?
  • The two leaders of the Iraq Study Group are experienced Washington hands who do not need to worry about their findings hurting their popularity or future job prospects…But because they are unlikely to find a technical fix to the Iraq war’s political problems, their greatest contribution will be initiating, rather than concluding, a broader debate on how to proceed. In such a debate, the best choices will not (and should not) earn unanimity. A serious escalation is probably necessary to “win” in Iraq…If winning is too demanding and politically unfeasible, then the United States must think creatively about ways to draw down significantly while still maintaining some influence in the Iraqi snake pit.

Posted in Diplomacy, Iraq Study Group | Leave a Comment »

A Russian Spy’s Death: What Americans Should Learn and Fear

Posted by K.E. White on December 6, 2006

by kwhite

Anne Applebaum’s While We Weren’t Looking at brings needed clarity to the mystery of who killed Alexander Litvinenko by radioactive poisoning.

Her article elucidates the reader on the shady underworld of post-Soviet spy-games, with former KGB agents now representing a dangerous free radical in the world of international crime.

Yet her most important point—which is almost glossed over in Slate’s presentation of the piece demands particular attention:

That we were surprised—are surprised—is both tragic and ironic: After all, for the better part of a decade now, we’ve been desperately looking for weapons of mass destruction and for these strange new enemies, the Islamic radicals who might be planning to use them. And now we’ve discovered that there really is nuclear material for sale, and that it really is being used, in the West, to kill people. And the killers aren’t strange, or new, or even Islamic at all.” (emphasis added)

Here, I believe, Applebaum skirts the main point to land her rhetorical punch.

Here’s the real worry:

Can U.S. officials really protect U.S. cities from a dirty bomb when we know 1) the materials exist on the open market, 2) are handled by individuals with questionable concern for human life, 3) are desired by individuals who are committed to harming America and 4) can successfully brought into our country.

Think the risk of a dirty bomb attack is unfounded?

Dirty bombs, or the conventional exploding of nuclear materials, do not constitute a Weapon of Mass Destruction– rather it has been called a “weapon of mass disruption.”

But to ground this semantic difference in the real world, let’s look to Peter D. Zimmerman with Cheryl Loeb 2004 article studying the dirty bomb threat:

“A careful examination of the consequences of the tragic accident in Goiânia, Brazil, however, shows that some forms of radiological attack could kill tens or hundreds of people and sicken hundreds or thousands.” (emphasis added)

And a June 2005 survey, which polled security experts on the WMD dangers facing America, by Sen. Richard Lugar found:

In general, respondents judged the probability of a major radiological attack over the next five years to be greater than the probability of a biological, chemical, or nuclear attack over the same time period. The average and median responses (27.1% and 25%) were higher for a radiological attack than for the other three types of WMD attack. Even within the limited time span of five years, 82% (68 of 83) said that there was at least a 10% chance of a radiological attack that affects a major portion of a city. (emphasis added)

Experts believe the dirty bomb threat is a real.

And Alexander Litvinenko’s death should show the American public the same.


An earlier edition of this article can read at Campus Progress.


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