Sunday, February 29, 2004


The UPI says the Canadian government is considering sending troops to Haiti whose current President, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, is on the verge of fleeing the country.

Canadian officials were reportedly close Saturday to sending hundreds of troops to Haiti as part of an international stabilization force. The Toronto Globe and Mail said Prime Minister Paul Martin spoke with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan Friday, as Martin worked to help build an international consensus aimed at resolving the crisis. "He's been personally taking a hand in this," an official said.

Consideration of sending a significant number of troops would depend on the makeup of an international force and the ability of the Canadian Forces to pull together a contingent on short notice. "Potentially, hundreds could go," the unidentified government spokesman told the newspaper. "But it would depend on the need there. "It's going to be a challenge, without question."

Although the US 24th MEU is potentially able to intervene there are no firm indications that US deployments are contemplated. On the contrary, it is widely believed that Washington has soured on trying to affect the outcomes in the chaotic nation. However the imminent collapse of the Aristide government and the lack of any significant force projection capability by United Nations "peacekeepers", including Canada, may force American participation as a matter of necessity. Underarmed and historically helpless UN personnel even when reinforced by Canadians may only add their numbers to the civilian bargaining counters which the belligerents will use as their chief foreign policy tool. Aristide has already raised the specter of sending a flood of refugees onto the waves or across the border into the Dominican Republic. Rebel leader Guy Philippe, himself a thug of some accomplishment, will doubtless do the same -- after looting everything that isn't nailed down.

The absence of military capability means that even if the Canadians could hold their own within a defensive perimeter, they would lack the muscle to prevent depredations in Haiti's interior. Other UN troops are likely to be in much worse case. This would lead under the traditionally timid UN doctrines to the adoption of a largely symbolic peacekeeping posture with a few UN garrisons in Port Au Prince and anarchy everywhere else. The UN mission in the Congo is a stellar example of this kind of Potemkin peacekeeping, where the Blue Helmets hold nothing but the airport and a nearby base while cannibal rebels roam the rest of the country pursuing hapless civilians to the very gates of the UN compound.

Any American involvement should come with strict conditions. The foremost should be an insistence on an active pacification strategy by UN and especially Canadian forces. Experience in the Global War on Terror and in fighting narco-terrorists in Latin America suggests that civil society can never emerge unless the backbone of thuggery is broken. In the context of Haiti this means an aggressive pursuit of warlords, looters and criminal elements that have reduced that country to a shambles. The Canadians should forthwith embark on an intensive intelligence operation to discover the most dangerous elements threatening orderly society and issue their equivalent of a Most Wanted Deck of Cards. Thereafter, the Canadians must simultaneously hunt these men down while rebuilding the Haitian police and judiciary. Only by employing these methods will Haiti and Haitians have any chance of regaining normal life.

If these conditions are met, the United States can provide any reasonable assistance the Canadian forces require. Although competent, the Canadians lack fire support and logistical lift, aerial surveillance assets and specialized equipment. The American assignment of amphibious lift, helicopter gunships and AC-130s should go far toward making the Canadians are really potent force capable of fulfilling the role of the great nation that they are, if only they could recollect it. But not a single American ship nor a single airlifter should be used to support a moronic UN operation whose sole utility is to hold a few acres of symbolic ground in the port while the Haitians suffer outside the range of the public relations cameras.

Friday, February 27, 2004

Black Saturday

Michael Novak at the National Review writes an astonishing review of The Passion of the Christ, surprising not so much for its content as its tone. There is the customary literacy and the tightly coupled train of logic, yet there is something else as well, the exhibition of a kind of ecstasy which we have long been taught to keep out of the public view.

I have never sat in the presence of a religious film with anything like the power of The Passion. At the end of it, I wanted to weep, and to be silent, and to commune with my God, on whom my sins had heaped such afflictions. From the opening scene, it is clear that God's Will governs the last twelve hours of Christ's suffering and death, and that He is called, not by his own will, but his Father's, to die for my sins. I am not certain how the filmmaker achieved this effect, but from the opening instant I felt personally drawn into recognition of my own responsibility for what was to come.

The effect of course, had less to do with the skill of the filmmaker than the innate power of a story which has cast itself over two millennia into our time. Before there was Gibson and even before there was Hollywood there was the Christ. Yet that fact -- the proverbial elephant in the living room -- has been kept out of view so long that people were certain to be surprised, even scandalized, at men weeping in a theater or Michael Novak writing, nearly heedless of his head, with his heart. And if the easy, facile fellowship has been somewhat dinted by the realization that both Christians and Jews hold beliefs that they will not compromise, then at least the way lies open to dispensing with the fiction that life can be encompassed by work, the shopping mall and the nearest theme park.

Because of course the moment will not last. Two weeks will see us talking about game fixing, plastic surgery, celebrity sexual scandal and bad odors. Then we will look back in wonder, not to a time of anti-Semitism or Christian persecution as some fear, but to the fleeting hour when we remembered who we were and what we were created for.

The Passion of the Christ

It's not every day of the week that the chief topic of conversation isn't about a suicide bombing or something related to the war but simply about a movie. That movie of course, is Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ. Or maybe I've got that wrong. It's not every day of the week that a 2,000 year old event, despite every effort to reduce it to a cultural cliche, shakes off its accretions and becomes, depending upon your belief, either a call to renewal or a blood libel. Yet even that might be wrong. It isn't every day that the news is about what Dostoevsky once called "the eternal questions".

The Belmont Club will neither attempt to review the film nor try to place it in its historical setting. There will be no comment on why Jews, Christians and secular atheists after seeing the same print all appear to have watched different movies. But it is fair to say that this partial retelling of the life of Jesus tapped a nerve that few pundits expected to be there. Yet the astonishment of the studio chiefs must be nothing to the surprise of Osama Bin Laden. We are not as he imagined nor as cynical as we thought ourselves to be. In the end wardrobe failures and celebrity scandals count for less than we think. The are some beliefs that we cannot live without and the longing for the numinous survives even in the concrete canyons of Manhattan. And whether it is spoken in English, Hebrew, Aramaic, Latin or demotic Greek still it is whispered in our most secret hour that 'our hearts shall never rest until it rests in Thee'.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Darkworld 2

Reader DL (the Belmont Club has many readers with these initials) wrote, in response to Darkworld that:

As much as I am for audacious, optimistic world-shaking in the name of preserving liberal democracy in the face of fascism, I wonder about the capacity of our system to maintain enough steady current to keep it alive. That's me being in my own Darkworld.

Richard Perle and David Frum have also recognized the almost unnatural demands that a successful campaign against terrorism will require. Faced with the difficulty of overturning the familiar, Perle and Frum are striving to raise public consciousness -- always a daunting and usually doomed task -- to prove the absolute necessity of the revolutionary. In an interview with Front Page Magazine (hat tip FG) they said:

First, we have to make the American homeland more secure by making it more difficult for terrorists to enter the country; and by cutting them off from money and support if they do enter. Second, we have to wage war against terrorist organizations abroad and the states that support them. Third, we have to challenge the terrorists' ideas - because make no mistake, the terrorists have ideas. Finally, we need to modernize our institutions so that we can fight this new war - including threatening to leave the UN unless it amends its charter to recognize the sponsoring of terror as a form of aggression.

The cynic might ask: what could be simpler than perfecting homeland defense, waging war against rogue states and transnational organizations, engaging in ideological conflict with a World Religion and overturning the current multilateral framework? Yet the truly astounding thing is not that this program has been put forward but that it has been conceived so late. It is the belated recognition of the need to deal with the externality that Europe, in the process of decolonization, has dumped upon the rest of the world. The former colonies or protectorates have become vast factories of human misery, desperation and fanaticism which someone now has to clean up. The proposals of Perle and Frum, so implausible on their face, are really more believable than the idea, gospel for nearly half a century, that a vast wave of misery could be unleashed indefinitely without affecting the rest of the world.

What made that illusion plausible was the United Nations. With colorful flags and carefully scripted pageantry  it projected the lie of happy, dark peoples quietly advancing their national destinies when in reality they were oppressed by dictators and tormented by famine, unending war and pandemic disease. When Frederic Forsyth wrote the Biafra Story in 1969 he was describing not a momentary check in the march to progress but the first arrivals at the end-point of the postcolonial process. It was where the happy smiling faces finished up; where the West Africa has already gone, where East Africa is hastening, where Saharan Africa is bound for and where even Southern Africa is belatedly going. The United Nations made it possible for the most noxious dictatorships of the Middle East to represent themselves as equals to liberal democracies; possible for nuclear proliferators like Iran to sit on the board of the IAEA; possible for the worst human rights violators to stand in judgement of the United States; possible for the whole thing to putrefy under spotless bandages until the pustulence burst. The facade held until it was smashed by two wide-bodied jets crashing into Manhattan piloted by men from places that were not supposed to exist.

What George Tenet asserted in his testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence is that extremist groups like Al Qaeda are about to turn the toxic products of postwar decolonization into a battering ram against the West.

But as we continue the battle against al-QA`ida, we must overcome a movement—a global movement infected by al-QA`ida's radical agenda. ... And what we've learned continues to validate my deepest concern: that this enemy remains intent on obtaining, and using, catastrophic weapons.

In the long history of confrontation between civilization and barbarism, civilization has rarely proved the stronger. The Goths, Huns and Hordes of Central Asia swept all before them. Not the stones of Caesar's Rome nor the cities of the last Caliphs nor even the Forbidden Cities of the Chinese emperors, but the ashes of barbarism's fire are the foundations from which we are sprung. If we are to avoid this fate we must not await the inevitable onslaught or believe it can be resolved through "law enforcement". All that Perle and Frum ask is that we snatch away our blindfolds, cast away our illusions and strive against those sworn destroy us. It is what men have always done, what the last generation taught itself to forget, and what this generation was born to remember.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004


George Tenet's remarks before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence lays out the interlocking structure of threats facing the United States -- and by extension the rest of the developed world. It's most striking feature is the absence of a Great Power threat to the general peace. The danger comes entirely from brutalized nations consisting largely of the Islamic and Third World countries so wholly collapsed that they are effectively "stateless zones". Into this cauldron of human misery two important ingredients have fallen. The first is an ideology which provides the disaffected and ignorant Islamic masses with a convenient explanation for their wretchedness: the modern world as represented by the United States; together with a means to end their suffering by plundering through the Jihad and the promise of earthly paradise under a restored Caliphate. The second is the growing availability of WMD technology and material to anyone willing to buy them. In Tenet's words "WMD technologies are no longer the sole province of nation-states. They might also come about as a result of business decisions made by private entrepreneurs and firms."

The addition of these two factors has effectively internationalized the chronic sectarian and factional conflicts which have simmered in these dysfunctional societies for centuries. The ancient enmities between Sunni and Shiite, Arab and Jew, Chechen and Russian, recently of interest only to a narrow circle of historians, is being refought in modern capitals with the latest weapons. Devices of enormous destructive power are being placed at the service of old hatreds from places where the Middle Ages never ended, a concept which finds perfect expression in the Al Qaeda belief that the destruction of the World Trade Center buildings marks a first step in the return of Andalusia to the Muslim world.

Despite Tenet's brave recital of American successes in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and the rollup of the Pakistani nuclear weapons mart, he is unable to answer his own question. How does the civilized world "overcome a movement -- a global movement infected by al-QA`ida's radical agenda" suddenly empowered by technologies it is now able to afford? 

It was in many ways a rabble waiting for a leader. In the two generations since the end of the Second World War more than a billion people were abandoned to anarchies and tyrannies euphemistically called "developing nations". Most of them, little more than a stamp and a seat at the United Nations, have already ceased to function -- the 50 "stateless zones" of Tenet's speech. If left to the leadership of men like Osama Bin Laden, these steerless multitudes can snuff out the living nations, as growing entropy blots out a system. The logical response would be to seize control of the movement ourselves, to raise the disaffected masses against their own tyrants. It is step President Bush has vowed to take but it is so audacious and regarded so cynically by the left that it would be a wonder if the world actually took the only path that can save it.

Monday, February 23, 2004

Spending and the National Defense

Reader FG sent a link to The Federalist (this may not open correctly when Federalist archives it) which argues, in "The Other Security Threat ... " that uncontrolled government spending now poses nearly as great a threat as the Jihadis. FG echoes the cry 'How far from the Reagan Revolution of the 1980s and the GingrichRevolution of the 1990s have we strayed?'  The article says:

President Bush's proposed fiscal year 2005 budget includes estimated deficit spending of $541 billion, though he proposes to cut the annual federal budget deficit in half by 2009. To put that in perspective, next year's deficit almost exceeds the total federal budget of $600 billion proposed by Ronald Reagan in his first year as President. Concurrently, Congress is endeavoring to legislate a balanced budget by 2014. The feasibility of both these goals is dependent on the rates of growth in both mandatory and discretionary spending, and, of course, the strength of the economy. ...

In a time when essential increases in defense spending are matters of national security, the administration's domestic-spending priorities are mysterious, to say the least. These include prescription-drug entitlement, manned missions to the moon and Mars (estimated to cost as much as $1 trillion), the now-defunct International Space Station, and expensive bureaucratic expansions such as the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation and the Millennium Challenge Corporation. Further, these priorities include the surrender of traditional conservative agenda items such as Social Security privatization, school vouchers, dismantling the Department of Education (instead, DOE funding has increased by an unprecedented 65% since 2001), and failing to promote free trade and Third World growth and stability through tariff reductions and removals.

I wrote back with an unthinking one-liner. "The struggle against Jihadistan and the entitlement programs are related because the Republicans have to "buy off" people, including their own constituencies in exchange for political support. How can we escape from this cycle is the hard question." It was a facile answer which was met by this reply: "That's the old 'welfare-warfare state' theme. I used to believe it, but I no longer think it is a necessary connection, see Samizdata, and still have to come across a political analysis proving that it is the case now." The article in question was Samizdata's "War is not the health of the State" in which David Carr argues convincingly that the State does not have to permanently grow in order to fight a war.

The British spent the entire 19th Century expanding their empire across the entire globe and in every corner of that empire Her Majesty's footsloggers and cavalrymen were busy fighting wars, rebellions, skirmishes and guerilla campaigns. The glint of Sheffield steel could be seen and the report of Enfield Rifles heard on every continent. On the high seas, the Royal Navy was charged with enforcing the government writ against slave-traders while simultaneously fending off imperial challenges from the French and the Dutch.

Yet, despite all this military activity, the British state was so small as to barely figure in the lives of the average citizen. Comparisons with the leviathan we have now are hardly possible. Nor, at any point in the 19th Century, did taxes exceed 10% of the GDP. Nowadays, people like Brian and I would consider it to be a monumental victory to get that figure down to 40%. ...

A growth chart of the British Welfare State rather bears this out. The Welfare State line climbs steadily upwards not in relation to the number of wars but directly in relation to the increase in enfranchisement. If the historical records are anything to go by, then there is a pretty good case for declaring democracy to be the 'health of the state'.

Carr's main argument is that the size of a state is not a function of its war-making capacity. So why then, reader FG asks, should President Bush expand the government spending in all directions to fight the Global War on Terror? My reply to FG was a little more careful this time.

"There was a time when governments raised taxes to actually pay for fighting. The Samizdata article mentions the Napoleonic Wars and how taxes were reduced after they had been won. They should have mentioned the American War of Independence, too. The Royal Navy was practically decimated by drawdowns at the conclusion of that conflict. But something happened in the last years of World War 1. No longer would men fight simply for King and Country. Thereafter, it became implicit that the "working class", or more precisely their representatives, had to be bribed in order to join the King's Armies. A "Land Fit for Heroes" had to be offered in exchange for sacrifice in war and that meant, in the coinage of that day, the Welfare State.

It was then that domestic welfare expenditure started becoming a major, and finally the principal cost of warfare. In the US, the shadow price of Roosevelt's interventionist foreign policy was the New Deal. Later, Lyndon Johnson's Great Society was the bribe for the Vietnam War. By the 1980s it had become established practice to buy votes in exchange for the right to defend the state. Mercenary soldiers may be an historical anachronism but mercenary voters are thoroughly modern. Even in the Reagan years the main share of government spending was never defense, it was entitlements. It will take a supreme national crisis to decouple entitlement spending from national defense. On the day that survival is not an optional extra to be purchased by concessions to illegal immigration or medical benefits it may again be possible to spend a dollar for a sword without spending two for the right to raise it."

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Men in a Time of Terror

The past, someone said, "is another country", especially when it is also in India. Eighty years ago, the Hindu pilgrim road to Badrinath at the foot of the great Himalayan peaks wound past the headwaters of the Ganges and thence through a landscape of pine woods, terraced fields and swift-flowing icy streams beneath shadowed gorges overlooked by fields of flowers. For eight long years, neither pilgrim nor the inhabitants of this land ventured out their doorway after dark nor even dared cross an alley to their neighbor's once the sun had set.

It was not enough, as one village headman had done, to place his sick wife in windowless inner room in the company of two nurses while he stood guard in the outer chamber, with the door shut and the sole window narrowly open, obstructed by a basin of water. Nor did it help, as one woman thought, to sleep at the closed end of a corridor-like pilgrim shelter, with 50 slumbering men between her and the sole opening. Nor was a man spared as he sat momentarily on the inner side of a door, shut but not fastened, with his friend smoking beside him. Soundless death came to nearly 500 people in the district, and the traces of only 125 were ever found.

Nearly eighty years later a professional hunter in Africa described what it was like to sit in a blind waiting for a leopard. "The alarm bark of baboon or bushbuck, the cackle of a flushing francolin, and the nervous chattering of a monkey or squirrel will all warn you of his approach. One second the bait tree will be empty; the next a leopard will be in it, as if conjured by a wave of a magician’s wand." That apparition would haunt the nightmares of Garhwal district night after night, despite the lavish use of traps, massive beats, the amateurish efforts of British officers on leave and bounties to attract sportsmen from the four corners of the globe, until one day the matter came to the only man it finally could. He later wrote:

"It was during one of the intervals of Gilbert and Sullivan's Yeomen of the Guard, which was showing at the Chalet Theatre in Naini Tal in 1925, that I first had any definite news of the Rudraprayag man-eater. I had heard casually that there was a man-eating leopard in Garhwal ... it was with no little surprise that ... on my return home I found a letter from Ibbotson on the table."

The man to whom this letter came, in that past which is another country, might himself have come from another planet. Edward James "Jim" Corbett was born in 1875 to English parents who had been in India for two generations. Here, after a boyhood spent among books and upland forests, a career in the railways,  the fighting of the Great War and the Northwest Frontier, already a legendary destroyer of man-eaters, the problem had come at last. His ten week pursuit of the man-eating leopard of Rudraprayag is the story of a man moving among his own kind, yarning with pundits in their roadside homes, sharing a smoke with farmers, joking with packmen, comforting victims of the predator and wondering with holy men at the clouds over the pilgrim trail. It was the locals at first who believed that Corbett faced not an enemy of flesh and blood but an evil spirit. Later Corbett himself began to wonder about this manifestation of elemental nature. He asked himself why, in a land of abundant game, death should come to a regal old woman who had the right to expect peace in her closing years.

There were no drag marks, but the blood trail was easy to follow, and it led us to a bit of flat ground, four feet wide and twenty feet long. ... Lying huddled up between the steep bank and the rose-bush, with her head against the bank, with every vestige of clothing stripped from her, and with her naked body flecked with white rose-petals that had fallen from above, was the kill -- an old grey haired lady, seventy years of age.

Nor did he have an answer to why a widow had lost her only son, a boy of twelve, on the threshold of their home, walking only a step behind her, in the midst of a village which instantly emptied at her first cry. She could only accuse the men of the village for failing to rescue her son "as his father would have done had he been alive". Corbett had no answer except to sit out each night on a tree branch over bait, or in one memorable case on the ground with his back to a boulder when the rain came, blotting out light and sound in the torrent, until with useless .275 Rigby in one hand and an Afridi stabbing knife in the other, he stumbled for safety to the nearest village. Perhaps an Ahab could have told Corbett why nature in this wondrous setting should have chosen to torment simple men with this sinuous and heartless foe, for people of our own time have forgotten both the beauty and peril of the world, where boys are now encouraged to squat while they urinate and kept from the knowledge that two airliners were flown into skyscrapers in Manhattan. But Corbett met the leopard under the stars, and when at last he stood over his foe, it lay empty of the malevolence he sought to face, as if it had fled before he could reach it.

But here was no fiend, who while watching me through the long night hours had rocked and rolled with silent fiendish laughter at my vain attempts to outwit him, and licked his lips in anticipation of the time when, finding me off my guard for one brief moment, he would get the opportunity he was waiting for of burying his teeth in my throat. Here was only an old leopard, who differed from others of his kind in that his muzzle was grey and his lips lacked whiskers; the best-hated and the most feared animal in all India, whose only crime -- not against the laws of nature, but against the laws of man -- was that he had shed human blood, with no object of terrorizing man, but only in order that he might live; and who now, with his chin resting on the rim of the hole and his eyes half-closed, was peacefully sleeping his long last sleep.

Thousands came from miles around to see the dead man-eater and the man who had ended the terror. "'He killed our only son, sahib, and we being old, our house is now desolate.' 'He ate the mother of my five children, and the youngest but a few months old ... ' 'My son was taken ill at night and no one dared go to the hospital for medicine, and so he died." Many who came had brought a few petals of marigold or rose in gratitude. "Tragedy upon pitiful tragedy, and while I listened, the ground round my feet was strewn with flowers". At the end, we are no nearer to the mystery which each generation must meet in its own time. What did the man-eater represent? And what did Corbett?

Thursday, February 19, 2004

A Tale of Two Cities

Here are two accounts of the nuclear proliferation disaster occasioned by Pakistan's active peddling of WMD technology. The first from Ma'ariv International (Hat tip: reader DL), puts the blame squarely on the complacency of American policy:

The most likely explanation why the Reagan, 1st Bush and Clinton administrations did nothing, despite having concrete information that Khan was peddling nuclear technology to rogue states, was that the US decided that he was carrying out Pakistani state policy. Pakistan has been a US ally since the onset of the cold war, and was the main conduit for US aid to the Afghan rebels fighting the Soviet occupation forces. Even after the USSR collapsed, orthodox thinking reigned supreme in the foreign policy establishment.

It is becoming increasingly clear that policy regarding Pakistan is gong to go down in history as another great chapter of US folly. The US significantly upgraded the capabilities of the ISI (Inter-Service-Intelligence), Pakistan’s military intelligence agency, using it as its main tool in supplying the Afghan rebels. It failed to notice that the ISI itself had come under the command of militant Islamists, and had become the most influential force within the Pakistani military establishment. When Uncle Sam belatedly realized he was being had by his erstwhile allies, he preferred to bury his head in the sand rather than admit he had been played for a fool. As a result the ISI was able to effectively hijack Pakistani policy. It created the Taliban, and gave them the green light to turn Afghanistan into the base of an Islamic jihad against the West, while professing to the US that it was the sole lever of moderation over Mullah Omar.

One of the main supporters of the ISI within the Pakistani military was General Pervez Musharraf, who, it is believed, played a significant role in developing the Pakistani bomb. Just how deep a game Musharraf himself has been playing is unclear. His Indian neighbors have never trusted him, and have always maintained that he is a closet Islamic militant who actively supports Islamic terrorism in Kashmir. Their opinion is worthy of consideration.

Bush Sr. played a significant role in creating this mess, first as head of the CIA, subsequently as Vice President and President. His son is going to have to clean it up. The irony is delicious: the son, considered a foreign policy ignoramus, is having to deal with the problems created by his father, considered one of the biggest foreign policy mavens ever to occupy the White House.

The second, from the New York Times, suggests that America was not quite so blind, just lackadaisical as Europe, that peaceful continent, broadcast the seeds of destruction to the four corners of the globe. (Hat tip: another reader with the initials DL).

The proliferation has its roots in Europe's own postwar eagerness for nuclear independence from the United States and its lax security over potentially lethal technology. It was abetted, critics say, by competition within Europe for lucrative contracts to bolster state-supported nuclear industries. Even as their own intelligence services warned that Pakistan could not be trusted, some European governments continued to help Pakistan's nuclear program. ...

The problem began with the 1970 Treaty of Almelo, under which Britain, Germany and the Netherlands agreed to develop centrifuges to enrich uranium jointly, ensuring their nuclear power industry a fuel source independent of the United States. Urenco, or the Uranium Enrichment Company, was established the next year with its primary enrichment plant at Almelo, the Netherlands.

Security at Urenco was by most accounts slipshod. The consortium relied on a network of research centers and subcontractors to build its centrifuges, and top-secret blueprints were passed out to companies bidding on tenders, giving engineers across Europe an opportunity to appropriate designs.

Dr. Khan, who worked for a Urenco Dutch subcontractor, Physics Dynamic Research Laboratory, was given access to the most advanced designs, even though he came from Pakistan, which was already known to harbor nuclear ambitions. A 1980 report by the Dutch government on his activities said he visited the Almelo factory in May 1972 and by late 1974 had an office there.

After Dr. Khan returned to Pakistan with blueprints and supplier lists for uranium enrichment centrifuges at the end of 1975, American intelligence agencies predicted that he would soon be shopping for the items needed to build the centrifuges for Pakistan's bomb. They soon detected a flow of equipment from Europe to Pakistan as Dr. Khan drew on Urenco's network of suppliers using a trusted group of former schoolmates and friends as agents.

The NYT article details how European companies, despite fitful American warnings and resistance from their own governments, continued to sell parts to Pakistan.

The Dutch government report found that in 1976, two Dutch firms exported to Pakistan 6,200 unfinished rotor tubes made of superstrong maraging steel. The tubes are the heart of Urenco's advanced uranium-enriching centrifuges. ... "The export control office didn't even inspect the goods," said Reinhard Huebner, the German prosecutor who handled the subsequent trial of the company's chief, Rudolf Ortmayers, and Peter Finke, a German physicist who went to Pakistan to train engineers there to operate the equipment. Both men were sentenced to jail for violating export control laws. But there were clues that the technology had spread even further: a German intelligence investigation determined that Iraq and possibly Iran and North Korea had obtained uranium-melting expertise stolen from Urenco in 1984 ...

And so the principal bulwark against nuclear weapons proliferation, the control of fissile materials dissolved in the fog of neglect and the acid corrosion of corruption. With finished bomb designs in the hands of Libya, courtesy of China via Pakistan, the last piece in the puzzle of death has been put on the board. The Washington Post reports:

Investigators have discovered that the nuclear weapons designs obtained by Libya through a Pakistani smuggling network originated in China, exposing yet another link in a chain of proliferation that stretched across the Middle East and Asia, according to government officials and arms experts. ...

The packet of documents, some of which included text in Chinese, contained detailed, step-by-step instructions for assembling an implosion-type nuclear bomb that could fit atop a large ballistic missile. They also included technical instructions for manufacturing components for the device, the officials and experts said.

"It was just what you'd have on the factory floor. It tells you what torque to use on the bolts and what glue to use on the parts," one weapons expert who had reviewed the blueprints said in an interview. He described the designs as "very, very old" but "very well engineered."

And maybe that is why Hans Blix, the UN's principal inspector, claims that President Bush exaggerated the threat of weapons of mass destruction to the world like a common salesman in pursuit of his imaginary fears.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004


The Mufti of Australia and New Zealand Taj Al-Din Hamed Abdallah Al-Hilali, who last came to public attention for driving an unregistered car on the streets of Sydney, has claimed in a sermon on February 13, 2004 at the Al-Quds mosque in Lebanon that Australia was discovered by Afghan Muslims. (Hat tip: reader DL). Al-Hilali also called for a Jihad against Israel. Al-Hilali said:

"Australia is an old-new continent. The Europeans issued a false birth certificate for it when the British seafarer Captain James Cook reached it. However, Australia already had the most ancient race of men on the face of the earth - the Aborigine people... They continue to live their primitive lives to this very day. But when you become acquainted with their traditions among their tribes, you find that they have customs such as circumcision, marriage ceremonies, respect for tribal elders, and burial of the dead - all customs that show that they were connected to ancient Islamic culture before the Europeans set foot in Australia.

"That is, Islam had roots deep in the Australian soil and read the Qur'an and called to prayer before the bells of the churches rang in Australia. The best evidence of this is the hundreds of mosques in the center of Australia built by the Afghans. Some of them were destroyed, and others were turned into Australian archeological museums, and still others remained unharmed, and they bear a history that proves that Islam has roots and ancient connections to Australia. But because they did not have the proper conditions to continue to exist, such as schools, propagation of the religion, and connection to the Islamic world, the first generation of our Afghan ancestors dissolved..."

"I visited the town of Alice Springs in central Australia, and found there a map [of Alice Springs] under the name Mecca. Alice Springs is surrounded by high black mountains, similar to the mountains of Mecca. Summer there lasts 10 months, and winter only two months. The temperature is above 50 degrees Celsius. There are several kinds of dates and palm trees there. We did not believe that dates could grow there. Now that we know the reason, we no longer wonder. We found that our ancestors the Afghans were among the first Muslims, and they settled this area and called it Mecca."

"The strange thing was that when our muezzin [who accompanied Sheikh Al-Hilali on his visit to Alice Springs] stood up to call for prayer, the old people of the town came out, and so did men and youths, and they looked different than the black Aborigines. They were a mixture of Afghan and Aborigine, as a result of marriages of Afghan men and Aborigine women. When the muezzin called 'Allahu Akbar,' they said, 'We have heard this song from our ancestors...' When they asked us 'What is this song you are singing?' we told them that this was an announcement of prayer time. When we asked them their names, they answered John, or Steve, but their names ended with Saraj Al-Din, Abdallah, or Muhammad..."

Properly speaking then, Australia may be regarded a Muslim land, stolen from the Dar Al Islam by the Crusader Captain Cook  Advocates of gay marriage should also take note that they may be on Al-Hilali's hitlist. More from the principal Muslim cleric in the Antipodes.

"More dangerous yet are the sex education classes in the schools. In the West, the society is divided, generally speaking, into different parts in accordance with how interesting they are. First comes caring for dogs and cats. In second place is the woman, and in third place is the child, and in fourth place is the male. Australia is one of the Western societies, and it has recently enacted laws enacted allowing men to marry men and women to marry women. The church officially registers them... These are the dangers of freedom and permissiveness."

But there is no need to worry. As  Edward Rothstein observes in the New York Times, fear has been declared backward and obsolete. At a conference which he attended, called "Fear: Its Uses and Abuses", he heard speaker after speaker excoriate the fear-mongers of the right for warning of a nonexistent danger.

Beginning with former Vice President Al Gore, who delivered the keynote address, speakers asserted again and again that the American government is preoccupied with instilling fear. ... But the dominant idea was that, as the conference's thematic statement put it, fear was being "encouraged by our government and exacerbated by our media." It was compared with the irrational fear of Communism and the perversions of McCarthyism. It was described as part of a counter-constitutional coup by a radical right. Talks about other aspects of fear — how, for example, it tends to drive out reflective thought with its stimulus of the "lateral nucleus of the amygdala" — mainly served to frame the theme.

But Rothstein is not so sure:

"We are caught," Mr. Harris writes, "in the midst of a conflict between those for whom the category of the enemy is essential to their way of organizing all human experience and those who have banished even the idea of the enemy form both public discourse and even their innermost thoughts." For those prepared to accept even some of Mr. Harris's premises, there is nothing to fear but the lack of fear itself.


Postscript: Reader ME points out that Muslims were in America before Columbus. Islamic Paths says:

Numerous evidence suggests that Muslims from Spain and West Africa arrived in the Americas at least five centuries before Co1umbus. It is recorded, for example that in the mid-tenth century during the rule of the Umayed Caliph Abdul-Rahman III (929-961), Muslims of African origin sailed westward from the Spanish port of Delba (Palos) into the “Ocean of darkness an fog.” They returned after a long absence with much booty from a “strange and curious land.” It is evident that people of Muslim origin are known to have accompanied Columbus and subsequent Spanish explorers to the New World.

The NASA plaque on the Mars Rover commemorating the Columbia Space Shuttle tragedy listing the name of astronaut Ilan Ramon beside a tiny Israeli flag is another in the list of Crusader and Zionist falsifications. Everyone knows that long before the Crusader American space program the Caliph ...

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

The Soft Target Is the Mind

Thomas Friedman of the New York Times believes that terrorist attacks on Iraqi soft targets have nearly brought that country to its knees, a development that can only be forestalled by tough talking from John Kerry. (Hat tip: Belmont Club reader DL)

The situation in Iraq is fast approaching the tipping point. The terrorists know that if they can wreak enough havoc, kill enough Iraqis waiting in line to join their own police force, they can prevent the U.N. from coming up with a plan for elections and a stable transfer of U.S. authority to an Iraqi government. Once authority is in Iraqi hands, the Baathists and Islamists have a real problem: They can't even pretend to be fighting the U.S. anymore. It will be clear to all Arabs and Muslims that they are fighting against the freedom and independence of Iraq and for their own lunatic ideologies. Which is why they are desperate to prevent us from reaching that tipping point. Their strategy is to sow chaos, defeat President Bush and hope that his Democratic successor will pull out. Which is also why at this moment the most important statement on Iraq that can be made - one that could even save lives - is nothing President Bush could say. No, the most important statement on Iraq right now could only come from the likely Democratic presidential nominee, John Kerry.

The press perception of success may be why Al Qaeda is planning to extend its attacks on soft targets to the United States. A Reuters report quoting Robert Hutchings, chairman of the National Intelligence Council, says:

"Soft targets, including the U.S. stock market, banks, major companies, and tall buildings are a primary focus of active al Qaeda planning," he said. Those targets are seen as easier to hit than U.S. government buildings and major infrastructure, which have higher security, Hutchings said. Al Qaeda has looked at derailing trains, perhaps carrying hazardous materials, to attack U.S. interests, he said. Nuclear power plants, water treatment facilities, and other public utilities are high on al Qaeda's target list, he said.

The U.S. government is concerned that al Qaeda will try to take its ability to build truck bombs as demonstrated by past attacks in Kenya, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey, and marry it with toxic or radioactive material to increase the damage and psychological impact of an attack, Hutchings said. "My biggest worry, however, is how far al Qaeda might have progressed in being able to deploy a chemical, nuclear, or biological weapon against the United States or its allies," he said.

Which brings us back to Thomas Friedman and his advice to John Kerry. Friedman suggests that these words from Kerry would break the terrorist's will:

"You see, Tim, if I were president, I would insist that we have a real policy of energy conservation to enlist every American in this war, by asking each of us to choke off some of the funds going to the Islamist totalitarians. I would immediately invite the leaders of the U.N., Germany, France and NATO to Camp David to rebuild the alliance that won the cold war, so we have the staying power to win this war of ideas in the Muslim world. And I would have my secretary of state out in the Middle East regularly, arguing our case, bolstering our allies and trying to bring about a secure peace for Israelis and Palestinians.

"Oh yes, Tim, my means would be very different. Unlike the Bush team, I understand that just because you have a hammer, not every problem is a nail. It takes more than force to win a war of ideas. But on ends, Tim, let no one have any illusions: a Kerry presidency will pay any price and bear any burden to try to build a decent Iraqi regime in the heart of the Arab world. My making that commitment now is the best way to prove to the terrorists that their actions are futile, and in that way save American and Iraqi lives. Failure to make that commitment would have horrific consequences for U.S. foreign policy.

"Tim, I am no dreamer. I've seen a quagmire close up. We can't want a unified, decent Iraq more than the Iraqis themselves. Ultimately, they will have to step up and come together around a plan and a leader. But the terrorists should have no illusions, and the Iraqi people should have no fears: America under John Kerry will give them every chance to succeed. We will not run."

This is the liberal clarion call. No determination to carry the fight to the enemy heartland, but a declaration of war against energy wastage and intolerant ideas, borne forward by a network of European alliances, where it is presumed that terrorists will lose heart because "we will not run". It is the same kind of message-sending, political-positioning and self-deluding claptrap that made Vietnam -- the war that never was -- into a nightmare. While Lyndon Johnson may never have believed in American victory, Vo Nguyen Giap certainly believed in American defeat. That is asymmetrical warfare at its most fundamental and its roots are in the liberal mind.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

Batteries Not Included

This from the Washington Post:

Investigators have discovered that the nuclear weapons designs obtained by Libya through a Pakistani smuggling network originated in China, exposing yet another link in a chain of proliferation that stretched across the Middle East and Asia, according to government officials and arms experts.

The bomb designs and other papers turned over by Libya have yielded dramatic evidence of China's long-suspected role in transferring nuclear know-how to Pakistan in the early 1980s, they said. The Chinese designs were later resold to Libya by a Pakistani-led trading network that is now the focus of an expanding international probe, added the officials and experts, who are based in the United States and Europe.

The packet of documents, some of which included text in Chinese, contained detailed, step-by-step instructions for assembling an implosion-type nuclear bomb that could fit atop a large ballistic missile. They also included technical instructions for manufacturing components for the device, the officials and experts said.

"It was just what you'd have on the factory floor. It tells you what torque to use on the bolts and what glue to use on the parts," one weapons expert who had reviewed the blueprints said in an interview. He described the designs as "very, very old" but "very well engineered."

The question has to be asked: why would anyone like Libya buy such a design unless there was the reasonable expectation of charging it with fissile material? How many people will buy a car unless they could buy gas? This investigation isn't over yet.

In a related development ...

Another Washington Post article today alleges that Iran maybe enriching uranium for illicit purposes.

U.N. inspectors have discovered blueprints for a previously unknown Iranian program to enrich uranium, a finding that they said calls into question Iran's promise three months ago to fully disclose its nuclear activities, diplomatic sources familiar with the investigation said yesterday. ... The blueprints contain instructions for building a type of gas centrifuge known as the P2, a super-efficient machine used in producing enriched uranium, the fuel used in nuclear power plants and a key ingredient in atomic bombs. Iran has acknowledged possessing hundreds of less efficient P1 machines at a formerly secret nuclear facility near the central town of Natanz. ... Although some U.S. officials suspect Iran of operating secret enrichment facilities elsewhere in the country, IAEA investigators have found no evidence that Iran currently is using the advanced machines to enrich uranium. Iran has consistently maintained that its nuclear program is intended only for energy production.

Their Finest Hour

There was a time when every other pundit asked aloud whether there were enough American troops in Iraq to defeat the Ba'athist insurgency, whether the US Army didn't need reinforcement from the UN or from France. But just a few months after the collapse of Saddam's government it was obvious to those who were watching that the key resource wasn't Blue Helmets. It was the Iraqis themselves. In August, 2003 the Belmont Club wrote in The Grand Alliance that:

The biggest sleeper item was the August 21 press conference by Secretary Rumsfeld and General Abizaid at the Department of Defense. Both emphasized that Iraq did not need any more American troops. What was needed -- and being supplied -- was more Iraqi troops. ... Iraqi security personnel are obviously better suited to the task than the Blue Helmets that the United Nations periodically threatens to send. Unlike the Nigerians, Uruguayans, Pakistanis and Malaysians who form the backbone of UN forces, Iraqis do not need to be transported in, rotated out, taught the language or given cultural sensitivity briefings. And Iraqi troops, unlike the UN's, might actually shoot back.

In this context, Paul Bremer's assertion that "it's not a question of more troops" but "getting more Iraqis to help us" is really a restatement of longstanding policy ...  it is really a declaration of a growing US-Iraqi alliance whose major components are still being assembled. ... In the last analysis, the battle raging in Iraq is an intelligence war in which locals are a much more valuable commodity than UN 'international troops'.

After being consistently outgeneraled, Al Qaeda now agrees. According to Al Qaeda big Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi whose correspondence were captured recently (hat tip Dan Darling), it is the Iraqis themselves that they must fear most:

The Iraqi troops, police, and agents these are the eyes, ears, and hand of the occupier. With god's permission, we are determined to target them with force in the near future, before their power strengthens. ... The Shi'a have taken on the dress of the army, police, and the Iraqi security forces, and have raised the banner of protecting the nation, and the citizens. Under this banner, they have begun to assassinate the Sunnis under the pretense that they are saboteurs, vestiges of the Ba'th, or terrorists who spread perversion in the country. This is being done with strong media support directed by the governing council and the Americans, and they have succeeded in splitting the regular Sunni from the Mujahidin. For example, in what they call the Sunni triangle, the army and police are spreading out in these regions, putting in charge Sunnis from the same region. Therefore, the problem is you end up having an army and police connected by lineage, blood, and appearance to the people of the region. This region is our base of operations from where we depart and to where we return. When the Americans withdraw, and they have already started doing that, they get replaced by these agents who are intimately linked to the people of this region.

And therefore these Iraqis must die. Good as their word, the Al Qaeda have struck viciously and repeatedly. After attacking Kurdish leadership while celebrating Eid, they went on to destroy police station after police station. Yesterday at Fallujah, Islamic terrorists "staged simultaneous morning assaults on three police stations, a civil defense base and the mayor's office". In the future many observations will be made of this battle: that the Al Qaeda timed their assaults to coincide with US unit rotations through Iraq; that they chose the moment when the baton is passing from US soldier to Iraqi policeman. But if the Iraqi nation goes on to live another hundred years, it will remember this:

Officers from the 82nd Airborne Division stationed a 10-minute drive away could hear the battle clearly. They offered help but the Hammad said it wasn't needed. The Americans did provide additional ammunition and weapons, including light machine guns. After the battle, soldiers at the civil defense base proudly displayed a light machine gun and a pair of rocket propelled grenade launchers they had captured from the attackers.

That when dying and bleeding, beset by the flower of terrorism, with pistol to set against automatic rifle and grenade, the Iraqi police did not ask for help from 82nd Airborne. They asked for ammunition.

Saturday, February 14, 2004

Is the Proliferation Genie Out of the Bottle? 2

A Belmont Club reader sends a link to a Reuters story entitled "World May Be Headed for Nuclear Destruction, ElBaradei Says".

The head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog said on Thursday the world could be headed for destruction if it does not stop the spread of atomic weapons technology, which has become widely accessible. In an opinion piece in the New York Times, Mohamed ElBaradei wrote that nuclear technology, once virtually unobtainable, is now obtainable through "a sophisticated worldwide network able to deliver systems for producing material usable in weapons."

Above all ElBaradei echoed President Bush's call in a speech on Wednesday for states to tighten up the control of their companies' nuclear exports to proliferators. ElBaradei, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) director-general, said the world must act quickly because inaction would a create a proliferation disaster. "The supply network will grow, making it easier to acquire nuclear weapon expertise and materials. Eventually, inevitably, terrorists will gain access to such materials and technology, if not actual weapons," he wrote. "If the world does not change course, we risk self-destruction," ElBaradei said.

ElBaradei is making two critical claims. The first is that the Pakistani network threatens the lynchpin of nuclear containment by commoditizing -- "systems for producing material usable in weapons." The second is the implied claim that a beefed up non-proliferation treaty and the IAEA could halt this march to "self-destruction". The subtlety in the first claim lies in the object of the sentence -- not "materials usable in weapons" -- but systems for producing material usable in weapons. That opens the possibility for the subjunctive: if we can keep these enrichment systems from being built then the materials will not be produced. That leads directly to the second claim. Just who is going to prevent these enrichment systems from being built? Why the international community, headed by -- ahem -- the IAEA -- the very agency that never detected the crisis until it was uncovered by Allied intelligence. ElBaradei even denies the possibility of any legitimate unilateral enforcement. "In a clear jab at the United States, which plans to forge ahead with research into the so-called mini nukes, ElBaradei said the world must drop the idea that nuclear weapons are fine in the hands of some countries and bad in the hands of others. "We must abandon the unworkable notion that it is morally reprehensible for some countries to pursue weapons of mass destruction yet morally acceptable for others to rely on them for security -- and indeed to continue to refine their capacities and postulate plans for their use," he said.

ElBaradei's statement reads like a proposition with an embedded logical contradiction. If the world is headed for destruction, which may be true, how can it's salvation be entrusted to the agencies which so singularly failed to prevent or even detect the threat? And since international police power must be used to prevent this threat, how can he argue against it's use? If ElBaradei were your local mayor, he might have said, 'we must abandon the unworkable notion that it is morally reprehensible for criminals to have guns yet morally acceptable for the police to rely on them for security -- and indeed to continue to refine their capacities and postulate plans for their use'. Police power, above all, means the concentration of force in some hands but not in others. If nonproliferation does not mean this, it means nothing at all. If ElBaradei cannot think this, he can think nothing at all.

Friday, February 13, 2004

Time on Target

Reader SN writes:

I think that Steven's main point of disagreement was lost in that little ellipsis in your first paragraph, namely, the scenario of a 30 city strike (or even a 10 city strike). The increase in logistics requirements to produce and transport that many weapons, especially while maintaining secrecy, appears to him (and to me) to be outside the bounds of all reason. Even if AQ stole 30 suitcase nukes from Russia, transporting them and carrying out a coordinated strike (especially the coordination with SECRECY) would be extraordinarily difficult.

Fair enough. I'll say now for the record that a 30 city strike is hard to pull off and retract anything I may have said to the contrary. But the reasons for it's difficulty are not as obvious as it might seem. The real constraint on terrorist nuclear capability is the availability of fissile material, not the tactical aspects of deploying the weapons to US cities. If bomb-making material is available there are good reasons for favoring simultaneous attacks over a series of individual strikes. The first reason was articulated by reader SR. Unless the terrorists are extremely stupid, they will have realized that striking a wounding blow to America is the wrong way to go. There are thousands of jihadis buried in Afghanistan and Iraq who are mute testimony to what a dumb idea that is. The advantage of a militarily weaker enemy vis a vis the US vanishes once America gets cranked up. The correct strategy is to kill America in the first blow. That was beyond the capability of the Japanese, but God knows they tried. And unless the Islamists are stupid they will try it too.

The second is tactical. If you compress an attack in time, you can lessen the chance of successful defense. If you had them, it would be better to set off thirty nukes at once than one a week for thirty weeks. This approach has various names, like 'saturating the defense' or 'time on target'. But the underlying idea is the same: you get temporary local superiority for the time you need it. Nor is a simultaneous attack necessarily that much easier to detect. Because clandestine groups are small relative to their milieu, they resemble convoys at sea. One would expect that convoys of a hundred ships are easier to detect than a hundred individual ship sailings, but WW 2 operations research found that given the "vastness of the sea" a convoy was just as hard to find as a single ship. If you have a "fixed cost" in safe houses, training personnel and comm exposure it may be better to risk them once rather than serially. Of course there are disadvantages to a simultaneous strike, but they are not as great as one would think.

To recap, the main thing is to prevent the fissile material from getting into the terrorist's hands. That's where most of the safety lies. If the terrorists can get the material, then relying on the logistical difficulties to protect targets will be a weak reed.

Is the Proliferation Genie Out of the Bottle?

Steven den Beste at USS Clueless writes:

Is the proliferation genie out of the bottle? Wretchard thinks so. I'm not by any stretch happy with the current state of affairs but I don't think it's anything like as dire as Wretchard seems to. ... I'm afraid that Wretchard and his reader are engaging in the kind of worst-case fear-mongering that opponents of the invasion of Iraq engaged in last year, what with estimates of tens or even hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilian deaths and millions of refugees, along with plague, starvation, stubbed toes, acne, and every other possible negative outcome they could imagine. I don't think Wretchard serves his position well by engaging in equal hype, because he actually has a legitimate point beneath this all with which I agree, one which might be ignored by a reader who doesn't take Wretchard's gloom-and-doom scenario seriously.

There are two issues: is a terrorist nuclear strike possible and how probable is it? President Bush seems to think it possible. At a speech last February 11 at the National Defense University he said:

In recent years, another path of proliferation has become clear, as well. America and other nations are learning more about black-market operatives who deal in equipment and expertise related to weapons of mass destruction. These dealers are motivated by greed, or fanaticism, or both. They find eager customers in outlaw regimes, which pay millions for the parts and plans they need to speed up their weapons programs. And with deadly technology and expertise going on the market, there's the terrible possibility that terrorists groups could obtain the ultimate weapons they desire most.

But as Steven rightly argues, it is fallacious to go from the mere possibility of an event to actively worrying about it. It is possible that an asteroid will wipe out the earth, but it is not so likely that it should concern us. There is no way to discover the explicit probability that President Bush assigns to the possibility of a terrorist nuclear attack, but one can implicitly gauge his level of concern from the steps he is taking to prevent it. Most notably, President Bush wants to amend existing international agreements in order to restrict the number of countries that can operate enrichment and reprocessing plants as well as revamp the IAEA. The amendments include disqualifying any suspect state from serving on the IAEA Board of Governors. What does this require? Article 7, paragraph 2 of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons says:

Any amendment to this Treaty must be approved by a majority of the votes of all the Parties to the Treaty, including the votes of all nuclear-weapon States Party to the Treaty and all other Parties which, on the date the amendment is circulated, are members of the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency. The amendment shall enter into force for each Party that deposits its instrument of ratification of the amendment upon the deposit of such instruments of ratification by a majority of all the Parties, including the instruments of ratification of all nuclear-weapon States Party to the Treaty and all other Parties which, on the date the amendment is circulated, are members of the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Thereafter, it shall enter into force for any other Party upon the deposit of its instrument of ratification of the amendment.

This is a serious diplomatic effort, requiring the approval of 93 countries (of the 185 signatories); a major expenditure of international and domestic capital in an election year with no assurance of success and indeed every prospect of rebuff. Without making too much of it, it seems fair to say that the President must think the threat is not only possible, but probable enough to make this effort. That means we are not talking about an asteroid strike. Of course, the mere fact that the President says so, or that he has been advised to say so by the Department of Energy or the CIA doesn't make it true. After all, he is in the middle of a political crisis over whether intelligence estimates of Iraqi WMDs were accurate or not. But the mere fact that he is making this claim about the danger of terrorist nuclear weapons in the context of his public pillorying over the threat of Iraqi weapons suggests he is either really worried or seriously mistaken.

Steven points out the issue of cost. He rightly says out that the US spent enormous sums to develop its nuclear infrastructure and that it is unlikely that any bunch of terrorists can duplicate it. But before we breathe a sigh of relief, let's remember how the Pakistani A. Q. Khan leveraged the market. Pakistan's nuclear weapons program utilized marginal cost acquisition strategies rather than building everything from scratch. Then he turned around and created value-added components and re-entered the market with his goods. He was creating a market in WMD industrial processes not in weapons. He wasn't selling fish. He was creating a fishing industry. Pakistan did not have to invest in uranium enrichment R&D to develop the technology from scratch. They stole it or bought large parts of it from a European firm called Urenco. They did not have to pay the capital costs of establishing Urenco, the Pakistanis merely had to pay the marginal cost of buying or stealing the technology. The factory in Malaysia which made centrifuge parts to the design was, according to press reports, already an existing precision machining company. The cost of the centrifuge parts would have been their marginal cost plus profit. When we come to the really hard item, fissile material, the story is the same. We recall that Total Cost(i)=Fixed Cost(i) + Variable Cost(i). So that for an existing facility capable of enriching uranium to weapons grade, there is an incentive to sell a quantity of product for so long as Price(i) > Variable Cost(i). When we buy a car, we don't have to build a factory. There only has to be a factory producing cars at a marginal cost less than what we are willing to pay. It is not the Manhattan Project in a cave we need to worry about, so much as the market in this particular product. As Dr. David Kay testified in connection with Iraq, while the infrastructure for WMDs was not there, there was danger all the same:

"In a world where we know others are seeking weapons of mass destruction, the likelihood at some point in the future of a seller and a buyer meeting up would have made that a far more dangerous country that even we anticipated."

Serious enough to invade. Incidentally, this is why John Kerry's "law enforcement" plus strategy for fighting terror is totally inadequate. If Steven is right and fissile material is the key, which it is, and if a country like North Korea decides to produce fissile material for sale, it will take more than law enforcement to stop them. It will take an act of war to keep them from doing it.

But returning to the issue of cost, the Pakistani nuclear development story shows how even a poor country can actually build the whole shebang on the relative cheap. And while it is true, as Steven says, that Saudi Arabia's income has "degraded immensely in the last 20 years and that their current income isn't enough to prevent internal unrest", the Kingdom is richer on a bad day than North Korea will be on its best day, and yet cost did not prevent Pyongyang from obtaining the bomb, or very nearly so.

There remains then, the issue of whether nations, even rogue nations, would give or sell bombs or components to terrorists. Or why, as Steven very reasonably asks, if Al Qaeda had fissionables, they haven't used them already. I too, was taught that states with WMDs would keep close custody of an item on which a large part of their power derived. Yet Saddam didn't behave reasonably.  He had no idea what he had in terms of WMDs.

Kay believes that post-1998 corruption and deception was so endemic in Iraq 's ruling circles and scientific community that Iraq constituted a major, growing danger. But the real danger was to Iraq itself. Saddam, according to Kay, was being massively deceived. Scientists would relate their progress in developing weapons and toxins, outline next steps, and ask for (and receive) money.

I think this is the weakest of Steven's otherwise strong arguments. One can't plan on an estimate of enemy intentions, especially when that enemy might be irrational. One must always plan on an estimate of enemy capabilities. And to reiterate, President Bush seems to think that terrorists could acquire those capabilities and that the probability is great enough to make a major effort to stop it. Personally, I plead innocent to "hyping up" the threat. Although our emotional reactions to the issue may differ, neither Steven nor the Belmont Club ever quantified our level of belief in a given probability of threat. And I believe it would be useless to try, given the uncertainty in the underlying variables. This is one argument which I sincerely hope to lose. Yet even if that meant that we would be safe for another 10 years, it would bring me little comfort. In that distant future my son will be 16 years old.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Separate but Related

President Bush's speech proposing unprecedented measures to prevent nuclear proliferation brings together two threads, conceptually separate but operationally intertwined: Islamic terrorism and nuclear proliferation. The address begins with a reminder of just what terrorists can accomplish with materials obtainable at the local shopping mall.

"On September the 11th, 2001, America and the world witnessed a new kind of war. We saw the great harm that a stateless network could inflict upon our country, killers armed with box cutters, mace, and 19 airline tickets."

He then went on to say that new merchandise has appeared on the shelves. Nuclear weapons.

A. Q. Khan is known throughout the world as the father of Pakistan's nuclear weapons program. What was not publicly known, until recently, is that he also led an extensive international network for the proliferation of nuclear technology and know-how. ...  A. Q. Khan, himself, operated mostly out of Pakistan. He served as director of the network, its leading scientific mind, as well as its primary salesman. Over the past decade, he made frequent trips to consult with his clients and to sell his expertise. He and his associates sold the blueprints for centrifuges to enrich uranium, as well as a nuclear design stolen from the Pakistani government. The network sold uranium hexafluoride, the gas that the centrifuge process can transform into enriched uranium for nuclear bombs. Khan and his associates provided Iran and Libya and North Korea with designs for Pakistan's older centrifuges, as well as designs for more advanced and efficient models. The network also provided these countries with components, and in some cases, with complete centrifuges.

To increase their profits, Khan and his associates used a factory in Malaysia to manufacture key parts for centrifuges. Other necessary parts were purchased through network operatives based in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. These procurement agents saw the trade in nuclear technologies as a shortcut to personal wealth, and they set up front companies to deceive legitimate firms into selling them tightly controlled materials. Khan's deputy -- a man named B.S.A. Tahir -- ran SMB computers, a business in Dubai. Tahir used that computer company as a front for the proliferation activities of the A. Q. Khan network. Tahir acted as both the network's chief financial officer and money launderer. He was also its shipping agent, using his computer firm as cover for the movement of centrifuge parts to various clients. Tahir directed the Malaysia facility to produce these parts based on Pakistani designs, and then ordered the facility to ship the components to Dubai. Tahir also arranged for parts acquired by other European procurement agents to transit through Dubai for shipment to other customers.

The inescapable inference, indeed the intended suggestion of the President's speech was that in the near future, terrorists would come at us not with box cutters but with a certified 40 kiloton Pakistani-designed nuke. This WMD marketing network had been uncovered not by the mechanism of the nonproliferation treaties, nor by the United Nations, but by Allied intelligence. The breakout had breached the defenses the world had long relied upon the control the spread of nuclear weaponry. Consequently President Bush proposed a series of measures, which, although unable to recall the horses which had already bolted the corral, might not nonetheless narrow the gate. They included:

  1. Tracking down and prosecuting violators;
  2. Making it a crime in all nations to proliferate nuclear weapons;
  3. Hire all idle nuclear scientists;
  4. Restrict the production of fissile materials to 40 countries;
  5. Restrict the importation of civilian nuclear equipment to countries which sign a nonproliferation agreement;
  6. Revamp the IAEA; and -- here is the clause that provides unintended comic relief --
  7. "finally, countries under investigation for violating nuclear non-proliferation obligations are currently allowed to serve on the IAEA Board of Governors. For instance, Iran -- a country suspected of maintaining an extensive nuclear weapons program -- recently completed a two-year term on the Board. Allowing potential violators to serve on the Board creates an unacceptable barrier to effective action. No state under investigation for proliferation violations should be allowed to serve on the IAEA Board of Governors -- or on the new special committee. And any state currently on the Board that comes under investigation should be suspended from the Board. The integrity and mission of the IAEA depends on this simple principle: Those actively breaking the rules should not be entrusted with enforcing the rules."

Taken together, the points in the President's speech are a virtual admission that the nuclear nonproliferation regime lies in absolute ruin. Not only did the "international" watchdog refuse to bark as offenders plied to and fro, but the perpetrators were sitting on the  IAEA Board of Governors itself. The President now holds out the hope that taking steps to control fissile materials may yet limit the damage. We should all congratulate ourselves that only a handful of cities can be incinerated if we act now.

I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odor of death
Offends the September night.

Accurate scholarship can
Unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.


Wednesday, February 11, 2004

February 11, 2004

With the announcement that nuclear nonproliferation lies in ruins, America has entered a period as critical as the Cuban Missile Crisis. The whole world, not simply the United States, may now be in the age of the nuclear car bomb. The speed with which the crisis has descended has left political parties without a set response to the nightmare which they had deluded themselves into thinking would never happen. They will in consequence, temporize the way actors who have walked into the wrong play have done, by repeating snatches from other parts, however ludicrous, however inappropriate. No one is ever truly ready to face a diagnosis of cancer.

One hopes that lingering in the minds of partisan politicians is the realization that this is real, that they can die in a nuclear fireball too. Or that some memory of fellowship or love of country, left over from childhood, returns to make its claim. If any of that still lives, let it come forth now. The hour is here.

Yet if we do not outlive these years, it was still worthwhile to have come this far as men. Some account it little. Matthew Arnold once reflected on the paltriness of our dreams:

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

And so perhaps the night shall come. But not while we live. Not while we live.

"The Nuclear Horse is Out of the Barn"

From Fox:

IJAZ: Well, I think that the nuclear horse is out of the barn. ...

HUME: If I say Libya, North Korea, Iran. Is that about complete the list, real quick?

IJAZ: I'm afraid not. There are at least three more countries that I can tell you for sure are on the list.


From the New York Times:

WASHINGTON, Feb. 10 — President Bush is to announce a new proposal on Wednesday to limit the number of nations allowed to produce nuclear fuel, senior administration officials said Tuesday. He will declare that the global network in nuclear goods set up by Abdul Qadeer Khan, developer of Pakistan's bomb, exposed huge gaps in accords to stop the spread of nuclear weapons technology, they added. ...

From the World Socialist Web Site:

It therefore became all the more critical, from the standpoint of Bush and company, to play the nuclear card: that is, to insist on their previous warnings that Iraq was perhaps only a year away from building a nuclear bomb. The threat of terrorists launching attacks with nuclear weapons was the government’s most effective means of generating an atmosphere of fear and panic, and thereby facilitating its war plans.

From Simon and Garfunkel:

The sun is burning in the sky
Strands of clouds go slowly drifting by
In the park the lazy breeze
Are joining in the flowers, among the trees
And the sun burns in the sky

Now the sun is in the West
Little kids go home to take their rest
And the couples in the park
Are holdin' hands and waitin' for the dark
And the sun is in the West

Now the sun is sinking low
Children playin' know it's time to go
High above a spot appears
A little blossom blooms and then draws near
And the sun is sinking low

Now the sun has come to Earth
Shrouded in a mushroom cloud of death
Death comes in a blinding flash
Of hellish heat and leaves a smear of ash
And the sun has come to Earth

Now the sun has disappeared
All is darkness, anger, pain and fear
Twisted, sightless wrecks of men
Go groping on their knees and cry in pain
And the sun has disappeared

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Midnight at the Bazaar

The careful reader will have observed that there was actually no "intelligence failure" in A Day at the Bazaar. By day's end the participants had discovered the fundamental truth about the shell game, although it was not what they expected. Each of their several hypotheses about the location of the pea was falsified. But rather than building on their discoveries and taking the hard-won truth to the next step, the punters returned obsessively to the question of why their cherished methodologies had failed, forgetting in their excitement, what their methodologies were for. They had conflated the concept of an "intelligence failure" with the notion of methodological failure.

But Belmont Club reader SR has not. He writes:

It's SR again. Ok, I'll be honest, The Three Conjectures has been nagging me for months. So why am I writing you now? I realized that there was an implicit assumption made in the 2nd conjecture. The explicit assumption in 2nd conjecture was "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". The implicit assumption was that the Islamists would start with a single iteration, i.e. attack cities one or two at a time. There is no reason to assume that they would do so.

Operationally it's trickier to maintain cover for the requisite number of teams, but there's no reason it's not possible. Keeping in mind that Al Qaeda is known for two operational principles: the ability to wait for years, if necessary, between attacks in order to position its resources and its use of simultaneous operations. Assuming the leadership learned its lesson in Afghanistan and Iraq, they know U.S. is not a paper tiger unwilling and/or unable to go to war against its allies wishes. Therefore, there is no reason, aside for logistical difficulties, for them not to wait and use a say, 30-40 city simultaneous attack.

Additionally for Al Qaeda, the threshold of victory required for a "first strike" is nowhere near as stringent as it was for the Soviets. The Soviets had to contend with the 2nd strike capabilities of the U.S. nuclear forces. The Islamists have an advantage in that they can preposition their leadership and resources prior to launching a first strike. Distributed networks are very resilient to nuclear attacks, which is why DARPA funded ARPANET. Imagine that prior to launching a say 30 city first strike, the Al Qaeda leadership distributed itself from Indonesia to Chechnya to Central Africa to Columbia and Peru. Even if what's left of the U.S. responds by making a sea of glass from Morocco to Afghanistan, what's left of the leadership would survive and be able to direct the further course of the conflict.

SR has raised two important points. The first is that the existence of an international WMD industry, which came to light after Libya opened in weapons program to inspection after the invasion of Iraq, essentially fulfills the assumption on which the 2nd Conjecture was based. There now exists a Pakistani weapons design, which, if it still cannot be built in a machine shop with a minimum of skill, is now with the help of available dual-use parts, within the reach of any interested government willing to buy it. The second is the observation that the Al Qaeda must from bitter experience know that the next attack on America must be so overwhelmingly crippling that it cannot effectively retaliate. There is no reason why a 30 city first strike is inconceivable, or even difficult as this 40-year old design shows. Nuclear weapons are cheap. According to the Brookings Institution, the United States built 32,000 warheads since 1945 at a total cost of $409 billion in 1996 dollars -- about $13 million apiece. Some, like the W-84 are considerably cheaper, at $1.1 apiece. Saudi oil revenues are about $191 million a day. SR understands, even if many media pundits do not, that if the unmasking of the international WMD arms mart were the only fruit of the Global War on Terror it would have been well worth it. One might conceivably argue that the UN would have eventually unraveled the whole skein in 2 or 3 decades, but that would be of academic interest only to visiting archaeologists from another planet.

The danger now is that this vital knowledge will be cast away or enmeshed in the toils of committee hearings. The intelligence bonanza will be ignored while we attend to the methodological failures. The idea that one should foresee everything perfectly before embarking upon a task has never been required before, at least not within recorded military history. It may come as a surprise to many that after the last dossier has been consulted, the last map perused, and every resource debriefed, that armies send out patrols of men whose principal function is to push forward until they are shot at when they make contact with the enemy. In a world of darkness and shadows, it will go hard with those who are forbidden to put out their hand. It will go hard with us. We will save our fingertips at the cost of delivering ourselves entire into the pit. Safety in a world littered with weapons of mass destruction lies in getting close to the enemy; not in the same grid square, but in the same cave, where we can grip his beard and smell his breath.

The street urchin was first to leave the coffee-house where the days events were discussed. He showed no resentment at having his advice disregarded by the punters, and for the general entertainment recited verse penned by a consumptive Englishman nearly a century before.

And how beguile you? Death has no repose
Warmer and deeper than that Orient sand
Which hides the beauty and bright faith of those
Who made the Golden Journey to Samarkand.

And now they wait and whiten peaceably,
Those conquerors, those poets, those so fair:
They know time comes, not only you and I,
But the whole world shall whiten, here or there;

When those long caravans that cross the plain
With dauntless feet and sound of silver bells
Put forth no more for glory or for gain,
Take no more solace from the palm-girt wells.

When the great markets by the sea shut fast
All that calm Sunday that goes on and on:
When even lovers find their peace at last,
And Earth is but a star, that once had shone.

And they laughed aloud at the prospects of the morrow.

Sunday, February 08, 2004

A Day at the Bazaar

A small crowd of people has gathered around an illusionist at a bazaar. In the circle of dust before him are three walnut shells, whose positions he is exchanging with wonderful dexterity. Nearly all the onlookers are agreed that one of them -- look how swiftly he moves it! -- contains a pea. As time passes some of the watchers develop ingenious methods for estimating the correct location of the elusive pea. One fellow has set up a laser tracking system to measure the speed at which the walnut shells move and has deduced from the fact of its slightly slower acceleration that the pea lies under shell number 2. Another has contrived to plant a listening device in the illusionist's home and has recorded conversation from wife to child hinting the pea is under shell number 1. Still another has spread microscopic particles on the dust and by subtle variations in their disturbance concluded the pea was under shell number 3. Each of the three watchers confidently indicates the 'certain' location of the pea and the illusionist upturns the particular shell in turn to reveal nothing. But opening the third shell without reclosing the rest proved the illusionist's undoing and the irate crowd is on the point of thrashing him when a voice from the back says: "Stop. What we have is an intelligence failure. Let's hold an investigation to find out how we could have been fooled."

The Guardian thinks problems like this can be avoided if we ask the right questions.

... unwittingly intelligence analysts can be fooled into assembling the case that appears 'most likely', rather than challenging the evidence to find out what is actually true. And according to recently retired intelligence professionals on both sides of the Atlantic, on the issue of Iraq's WMD that is precisely what occurred. ... 'People have also forgotten how to ask the right sort of questions about what they are seeing - going deeper into the material. You cannot depend on what seems obvious.'

Jane Harman, the leading Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, essentially says the same thing. In an article entitled "Four Steps to Better Intelligence" in the Washington Post, Harman says the CIA should try

  1. "to relearn forgotten lessons. In 1992 Robert Gates, then director of central intelligence, wrote that analysts should highlight what they don't know and not try to 'make the tough calls.'"
  2. "quickly correct any other WMD estimates that may contain or be tainted by the same deficiencies found in the Iraq analysis. If estimates of Iraq's WMD programs were so far off the mark, we must be concerned that there are systemic deficiencies in intelligence analysis on other WMD programs and activities, such as those in Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria and Pakistan."
  3. "improve collection of WMD information, including recruiting and deploying more human sources."
  4. "call for a reinvigorated U.N. inspector force and commit additional U.S. resources to this effort. It turns out that U.N. inspectors had better information than anyone else. Presidential leadership on this would go a long way to restore sadly tarnished U.S. credibility."

During the investigation of the shell game fiasco, one street urchin, who had been called as an expert witness observed, "the key moment came when you were able to look under all the shells simultaneously". Asked to elaborate on the point, the urchin said. "The total quantity of information obtained from calculating the angular momentum of the shells, interpreting signals intelligence or engaging in statistical analysis of the microscopic tracers was wholly dwarfed by the act of looking under them, and subsequently interrogating the illusionist. Now everyone knows that the pea was passed to a confederate in the crowd before the game actually started. And that the whole point of the game was to provide a distraction for you worthy gentlemen while I picked your pockets."

In related developments, "the founder of Pakistan's nuclear weapons program, Abdul Qadeer Khan, has signed a detailed confession admitting that, over the past 15 years, he provided Iran, North Korea and Libya with designs and technology to produce the fuel for nuclear weapons." WMD designs found in Libya, whose dictator opened his country for inspection after the invasion of Iraq showed facilities constructed to a Pakistani design, itself derived from European sources, and of components partially manufactured in Malaysia. The feared WMDs were not being hatched in secret by Saddam Hussein so much as developed as an entire export industry by a staunch American ally, Pakistan and a 'moderate' Muslim country, Malaysia.

As he handed back their wallets, the urchin was asked by the professional shell watchers how they could improve their pea-watching methods. His advice to them was to "keep looking under shells. Whatever you do, don't gaze at your navels. Knowledge comes from flipping over shells." After long deliberation, the watchers are now busy learning how to ask the right questions, avoiding group-think and reinvigorating a dilapidated inspectorate. They have also ordered false moustaches and still undisclosed new technology. Asked why they had disregarded the urchin's advice they said, "that is why we are members of the Select Committee of Shell Watchers while he is still a street Arab".

Talleyrand is supposed to have said of the Bourbon kings, “They have learned nothing, and they have forgotten nothing.”