Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Slow Collapse 2

This from the Guardian, no believer in the danger of WMD proliferation:

Diplomatic sources familiar with the results of a recent visit to Libya by nuclear experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said the Gadafy bomb programme differed in crucial respects from nuclear projects in Iran, Iraq or North Korea. "What was found in Libya marks a new stage in proliferation," said one knowledgeable source. "Libya was buying what was available. And what is available, the centrifuges, are close to turnkey facilities. That's a new challenge. Libya was buying something that's ready to wear."

Another well-placed source said: "We all now realise there is this extraordinarily developed and sophisticated market out there enabling anyone to get this centrifuge equipment." ... The German ship was seized by Italians after a tip-off from the CIA. Knowledgeable sources said the centrifuges on board were "made-to-order" in Malaysia for Libya, based on designs directly or indirectly from Pakistan.

Here, then is the question that Jeffrey Record's War College Paper fails to address when he argues that terrorism and rogue statehood are separable phenomena. If a group of nations or terrorist groups in combination, disperse the tasks of WMD manufacture and weapons delivery among themselves, then not a single one will technically constitute a "clear and present danger". Just as Malaysia, which "only" manufactures centrifuge parts is guilty of nothing, then surely a group of nations which together provide the componentry, funding or training facilities for a terrorist-assembled bomb should not be held to account if New York is destroyed. Every effort by an American administration to crack down on a rogue state, will by definition be legally unjustified, because there was no "actual" WMD capability. Only if the danger as a whole is apprehended can the threat be foreseen. Only if addressed as a whole can it be prevented.

Much of the criticism directed against Operation Iraqi Freedom arose from the observation that few Iraqi chemical weapons were found in a ready-use state. This is taken as proof that the threat was inflated, or even concocted. Until one realizes that the discovery of componentry, rather than finished goods, means things are rather worse, not better. First, the existing nonproliferation treaties were not designed to deal with the distributed design, manufacture and use of WMDs. The data from Libya shows how the Islamic countries have worked around the limitations of the treaties. Second, they underscore the limits of the IAEA inspection process, which cannot ascribe a sinister intent to the manufacture of parts in isolation from those which they are intended to match in other countries. Third, it means the one terrible premise of the Three Conjectures is very to near to attainment: a robust Model-T A-bomb made from dual use parts.

Because capability is the sole variable of interest in the war against terrorism, the greater the Islamic strike capability becomes, the stronger the response will be. An unrepeatable attack with a stolen WMD weapon would elicit a different response from one arising from a capability to strike on a sustained and repetitive basis. The riposte to an unrepeatable attack would be limited. However, suppose Pakistan or North Korea engineered a reliable plutonium weapon that could be built to one-point safety in any machine shop with a minimum of skill, giving Islamic terrorists the means to repeatedly attack America indefinitely.

As the Slow Collapse put it:

It is hard to escape the conclusion that neither pre-emptive warfare, nonproliferation treaties, sanctions, aid programs nor diplomacy can do more than slow down the spread of weapons of mass destruction. By 2025, a period equal to the time elapsed between the first Pakistani nuclear research effort and their tests, WMD technology should be available to every country that can afford a national airline.

Such a development would revolutionize regional power politics throughout the world. The Indo-Pakistani standoff, and the crisis on the Korean Peninsula will no longer be the exception. It will be the norm. For all but a vanishing moment in history, the world 'bomb' will not mean Car Bomb, but nuclear bomb. The Eye of the Enemy is no longer moving. He has come.


A Dutch parliamentary inquiry is being conducted into the transfer of uranium enrichment technology from the Dutch company Urenco to Pakistani A-bomb developer Abdul Qadeer Khan, who worked for the firm in the 1970s.

Evidence of Pakistan's possible role in transferring centrifuge technology emerged last summer when inspectors from the United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency uncovered an extensive enrichment program in Iran based on Urenco's designs. After several inspections and protracted negotiations with the agency, Iran conceded in November that it had received centrifuge drawings and components from several middlemen, including Pakistanis, according to diplomats.Pakistan drew suspicion again last month after Libya announced that it was abandoning its development of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons and opened its doors to inspectors from the United States, Britain and the IAEA. Diplomats said in recent interviews that IAEA inspectors had been shown two types of centrifuge equipment in Libya. They said the equipment was clearly based on the designs of the Dutch unit of Urenco and its German affiliate.

All kinds of squirmy things are being found under rocks the Bush administration has kicked over, which in the opinion of the peace lobby amount to nothing, but which on the contrary, exceed the worst stated fears: a virtual WMD manufacturing industry. Don't worry boys, there are no raptors in the cave. Just several thousand harmless-looking striped eggs.