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Archive for the ‘2008 Election’ Category

The Pitfalls of Nuclear Primacy

Posted by K.E. White on September 7, 2007

America’s nuclear policy falls broadly into two categories: a) reactive—how will America react to a dirty bomb attack—and b) proactive—how will America develop our current nuclear arsenal in the era of terrorism and creeping proliferation. 

The threat of another terrorist attack in America and the Iraq War has dominated the ’08 election foreign policy discussion, leaving that second proactive largely devoid of meaningful discussion. But it might be even more important, in the long-term, than question over another 9/11 or the Iraq War. 

Carl Robichaud takes down one proactive pathway: nuclear primacy, i.e. the ability to strike a nation with nuclear weapons without detection. Robichaud claims 1) that this policy is will and capable of being pursued, if it hasn’t been already; 2) that this policy destabilizes the international community; 3) remains an infeasible project. 

Robichaud then leaves with three options: 1) pursuing primacy, 2) slowing it down for stability, or 3) finally constructing a post-nuclear security policy. Unfortunately that third pathway still remains to be clearly sketched out, and relies on international transparency and cooperation—a highly variable aspect of the international community. 

From Robichaud’s article:

The Cost of Primacy

Nuclear primacy offers strategic benefits. Even if a nuclear surprise attack on an adversary is considered beyond the pale, the objective capacity to launch it can give the possessor an edge when bargaining with potential adversaries. Nuclear dominance gave the United States some leverage during its standoff with “Red” China over the Taiwan straits in the 1950s. Nevertheless, the benefits of primacy are easy to overstate: America’s nuclear primacy did not deter non-nuclear China in Korea or Vietnamese guerillas in South Vietnam.

Moreover, primacy has costs. The first is reduced conflict stability, which heightens risks even for the dominant nation. If Russia knows that it is at risk of being disarmed by a bolt from the blue, it is likely to disperse its weapons, shorten launch times, and devolve control to sub-commanders. Such a posture would exacerbate the risk of accidental or unauthorized launch in the context of a crisis. Depending on how Russia responded to American primacy, these risks could well outweigh whatever modest bargaining benefits it offered. Already Russia is taking some provocative steps to mitigate its vulnerability—including the announcement last month that its nuclear bombers will, for the first time since 1992, resume long-range patrols “on a permanent basis.” Second, the search for primacy directly undermines the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, which remains our best defense against nuclear terrorism. One of the reasons that progress on these programs has slowed to a crawl is Russia’s suspicion that the initiative is a cover for espionage into its nuclear installations.

Finally, any moment of primacy is likely to be short lived. The article by Lieber and Press no doubt stirred as much attention in their Russian and Mandarin translations as they did on America’s newsstands. Any attempt at primacy will provoke an eventual arms buildup by those it threatens that tomorrow’s generations might regret—and with energy-rich Russia having reversed its post-Soviet economic decline, it now can afford to reverse a U.S. bid for nuclear primacy.

Posted in 2008 Election, Carl Robichaud, nuclear primacy, Nuclear Weapons, post nuclear | Leave a Comment »

Advice on Iraq, From Everyone: The Real Battle on Iraq Is Local

Posted by K.E. White on June 23, 2007

Proliferation Press Editorial

The public, contrary to the image of many polls, is still lost on Iraq. And, predictably, the presidential candidates will mould the ’08 public consensus on Iraq. But it will be the micro-politics on think tanks, advocacy groups and veterans who will hand the White House aspirants their choices, and most likely determine the winner.

Progress is building on reconstituting the Iraq Study Group (ISG). The proposal, emerging as a thought on the House floor on June 7th, now has funding. The House approved a measure Friday to transfer $1 million from other State Department funding to the ISG. (Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in undoubtedly thrilled.)

But, as WaPo notes, will this ever-increasing volume of advice drown out any definitive Iraq assessment?

Probably. But such a concern presumes the following: 1) The White House will change policy, 2) Congress can dictate that change, and 3) Congress would want to take the reins on Iraq.

The first assumption has some substance. The White House, while incredibly resolute or stubborn—depending on your view—on Iraq policy, cannot have Republican support for the executive collapse on Iraq. Such a collapse would destroy any momentum on other foreign policy fonts—India nuclear deal or North Korea nuclear crisis are two examples. And Bush would be an utterly empty suit on the world stage.

But such a collapse will unlikely. Americans, while favoring a pull-out, still support the White House making the final call on Iraq. Why this dissonance, illustrated so strongly by the staunch report for U.S. troops in Iraq by Republican contenders for the White House.

Increasingly the public feels the war is lost, but they also know—in the age of international terrorism—that leaving Iraq could cause problems at home or aboard. And most critically, the public has yet to find a national leader on Iraq.

This leaves Congress in a bind. Congressional Democrats lose whenever they try to ‘own’ Iraq, as Reid’s disastrous attempt to cut funding for Iraq. Not only do the Democrats lose on opinion polls, Democratic unity is shattered. Bush owning Iraq, which he can continue to do for the near-term, is the best path for Democratic success in 2008.

So drowning the public in Iraq advice meets everyone’s interest. Republicans can cover themselves, but continue support for a lingering surge. Democrats can increasingly choke the White House, without stinging ‘cut and run’ labels bandied about.

But 2008 looms large. The two-major party candidates will have to lead on Iraq—something that has yet to fully materialize.

Priming the now wandering public is paramount. Advocacy groups, politicians and other invested parties on both sides of Iraq policy will work hard to influence public opinion.

This frenzied, grass-roots battle to mesh the ‘silent majority’ on Iraq will set the 2008 Iraq debate.

Posted in 2008 Election, Bush administration, Iraq | Leave a Comment »

Blast from the Past: Madeleine Albright Comes Up to Bat for Hillary Clinton

Posted by K.E. White on February 26, 2007

An e-mail blast for Hillary Clinton’s campaign from Madeleine Albright:


Madeleine AlbrightI’ll never forget that moment in 1995 when I watched Hillary Clinton stand up in Beijing and declare that “women’s rights are human rights.” In front of the whole world, Hillary spoke out for every woman who suffered from inequality, injustice, and repression. Every person in the hall knew she was making history. Her act of courage still reverberates through women’s lives.

I’ve known Hillary for nearly 20 years. I’ve stood side-by-side with her as she took on the fight for women’s rights at home and abroad, and let me tell you: no one will stand up for all of us as she will. She is the experienced leader this country needs.

The very first day of her presidency, Hillary will transform America’s role in the international community because of the deep admiration she has long enjoyed on the world stage. She will restore the respect that is the foundation of our alliances and the source of our strength.

Don’t let this opportunity pass by. Don’t stand on the sidelines as Hillary walks through the critical early weeks of her amazing journey.

Support Hillary’s “One Week, One Million” campaign right now.

Click to Contribute:

Thank you so much for acting early to get Hillary’s campaign — and America’s future — moving forward.


Madeleine Albright

Hillary’s calling out the big guns: I can’t wait until the actual election gets into gear.

Next two years = election nightmare of epic proportions. Just ask our nation’s governors.

But returning to the cottage industry of foreign policyRichard Holbrooke guru endorsements, it seems Richard Holbrooke should be watched.

But, unlike Secretary Albright, Ambassador Holbrooke seems to be out of the game: recently accepting a professorship at Brown University.

But then again, he did become ‘political’ again by calling for the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq late last week.

 But he’s no where near as political as Albright, whose hard swings on the Bush Iraq policy are nothing new but far more vociferous as of late.

Could this Albright-Clinton alliance be an attempt to shore up Hillary Clinton’s very weak anti-war credentials against Obama?

Will it matter to any primary voters?

Or perhaps more importantly, will Albright bring in more money for Clinton warchest?

And for policy wonks: Is this a sign that Hillary will return the National Security team of her husband?

Posted in 2008 Election, Hillary Clinton, Madeleine Albright, Richard Holbrooke | 3 Comments »