Nuclear Policy In The Trump Administration

 

A couple of weeks ago, the administration released its Nuclear Posture Review. All administrations like to put their stamp on policy. The last review was in 2010.

There are lots of things in this one to talk about, and many articles out there about them. I’ve been trying lately to stand back from the trees and look at the forest. So, as a former project manager, some of the first questions I come up with have to do with budgets and timelines. Things like resource availability and scheduling. I wrote that up for Physics Today.

Short version: Looks to me like they can’t do what they want with the resources they’ve got. Plus it will take a decade or more to build the nukes they want, so maybe diplomacy can achieve our ends faster.

 

Cross-posted at Nuclear Diner.

129 replies
  1. 1

    […] Cross-posted at Balloon Juice. […]

  2. 2
    Yutsano says:

    so maybe diplomacy can achieve our ends faster.

    But how will Dolt45 be a popular wartime President without a war?

  3. 3
    PeakVT says:

    Give nuclear bombs a tax cut and they will build themselves, dontchaknow.

  4. 4
    Aaron says:

    You forgot the most important payment mechanism: Ask Mexico to pay for it!
    I am sure that will work just as well for our nukes as it does for a border wall.

  5. 5
    TenguPhule says:

    so maybe diplomacy can achieve our ends faster.

    With what State Department and Diplomats, Cheryl?

  6. 6
    TenguPhule says:

    @PeakVT:

    Give nuclear bombs a tax cut and they will build themselves

    Trump will gladly take a tax cut today to deliver nuclear bombs on Tuesday.

  7. 7
    WaterGirl says:

    Can the Trump Whitehouse be added as a nuclear threat?

  8. 8
    Mike in NC says:

    Hey, let’s put on the biggest military parade the world has ever seen, then top it all off with a spectacular [nuclear] fireworks display!

  9. 9
    Another Scott says:

    Thanks for the Physics Today pointer. Congratulations! Well said.

    Yeah, expanding the arsenal of weapons types is moving in the wrong direction. And we all know that estimates made now are under-estimates of the cost and time required.

    Technical work on the nuclear arsenal should concentrate on ensuring their safety and reliability, and cleaning up of the huge backlog of contamination and waste remediation at the plants (and at the civilian power plants). Policy work should concentrate on a serious effort to finally fulfill our commitment under the NPT to end the nuclear arms race and eliminate nuclear weapons.

    My $0.02.

    Cheers,
    Scott.

  10. 10
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    I used to worry that the deserting coward desperately wanted to use his nuke toys.

    I never had this fear with Bill Clinton, or Barack Obama, or (potentially) with Hillary Clinton.

    Now I worry about Donald.

  11. 11
    Jeffro says:

    What is this duh-ploh-muh-see of which Cheryl speaks? We have the ability to send threatening tweets – what else do we need?!?

  12. 12
    Amir Khalid says:

    Drawing up a nonsensical nuclear weapons strategy that you can’t execute. That’s just genius, that is.

  13. 13

    I assume the policy is “Woob woob woob woob nyuk nyuk nyuk.”

  14. 14
    Jeffro says:

    btw folks, Ms. Rubin is helping spread the word: The Core Mission of the GOP is Now To Defend Abusers

    Which, if you think about it, fits not just Trumpov and Porter and Bannon and Lewandowski, but civil-society-abusers like ZEGS and the Turtle, too.

    …They abuse the privilege of serving by hiring utterly unqualified and morally reprehensible characters. They abuse the privilege of the bully pulpit by spinning conspiracy theories (as Sen. Ron Johnson has done on two separate occasions).

    They abuse their access to classified material by using it to smear the FBI and hobble an investigation into both an attack on our electoral system and a pattern of conduct that amounts to obstruction of justice, in the eyes of many ordinary Americans and legal scholars.

    The GOP-led Senate abuses its power to advise and consent (after shredding the remainder of the filibuster) by rubber-stamping utterly unqualified judges, a Health and Human Services secretary with a record of questionable stock transactions, an attorney general who misled the Judiciary Committee as to his contacts with Russians, an Environmental Protection Agency director who doesn’t believe climate change is a problem and a commerce secretary with a bushel of conflicts.

    President Trump abuses the office by keeping his business holdings, enriching himself, refusing to disgorge foreign emoluments, hiring his children who themselves have conflicts and refusing to disclose his own tax returns. The GOP-led House and Senate abuse their offices by permitting this.

    The GOP-led House and Senate abuse the legislative process by rushing to vote on bills that their members do not understand — while denigrating the neutral umpires who score the bills (the Congressional Budget Office). They abuse language by saying a tax cut heavily weighted toward the rich and corporations is a “middle-class tax cut.”

  15. 15
    Mike in DC says:

    In theory, if we shift to a minimal deterrence strategy similar to China’s, we can get by just fine with around 300 actively deployed strategic warheads, plus maybe a few hundred in reserve.
    The concept behind using lower yield nukes with higher CEP accuracy is fine as far as it goes, but the notion that it should put such use “on the table” is just nuts. Nuclear weapons should never be thought of as “just another weapon in our arsenal”. They are an absolute last resort, and we should strive to have as few of them as prudentially permissible.

  16. 16
    Hungry Joe says:

    Diplomacy? Oh, come now. How can anyone make money off diplomacy?

    I knew a mathematician who worked at Lawrence Livermore. When Reagan’s “Star Wars” anti-missile concept was being floated, one of his colleagues said, “It’ll never work, but that’s a trough I’d love to get my snout into.”

  17. 17
    Le Comte de Monte Cristo, fka Edmund Dantes says:

    You maintain and upgrade existing stocks, eliminating categories by treaty or as inducements.

    You don’t expand numbers.

  18. 18
    piratedan says:

    well it’s a good thing that we’re so friendly with Russia since Clinton sold them all of our uranium….. /////////////

  19. 19
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Aaron:

    Actually, I bet Mexico would love to have a few nukes of their own at this point. Maybe they can offer to build them in Mexico and then refuse to turn them over.

  20. 20
    Brachiator says:

    so maybe diplomacy can achieve our ends faster.

    As others have noted, this Administration does not understand or believe in diplomacy and is doing all it can to get rid of seasoned foreign policy hands.

    But thanks so much, Cheryl, for the link. It is just wild to have a real goddam expert posting here.

    BTW. In his recent book “The Doomsday Machine,” Daniel Ellsberg advocates eliminating our nuclear arsenal, not expanding it.

    But, Ellsberg stresses, we can yet dismantle the “dizzyingly insane and immoral” Doomsday Machine that we have constructed. Toward that end, he describes a number of definitive steps that can be taken immediately, beginning with adopting a no-first-use policy, eliminating land-based ICBMs, and de-alerting the current U.S. arsenal from the hair-trigger posture it continues to maintain. To quote Dr. Strangelove himself, “It requires only the will to do so.” It’s true that he was speaking of building a doomsday machine, not dismantling it. But the truth remains that it is possible to reverse our path toward, as Ellsberg puts it, “an irreversible, unprecedented, and almost unimaginable calamity for civilization.”

  21. 21
    J R in WV says:

    So they want to build new nuclear weapons with facilities that don’t exist. They expect the non-existent new plants to have these new weapons available within 10 years. These new weapons will solve unspecified international problems somehow, that we can’t solve with the 1550 weapons currently allowed under international agreements, somehow, maybe, they hope.

    The document appears to be logically incoherent, nonsensical bullshit about bigger stronger via nuclear explosives. Sheer Trumpian Lord of the Flies nonsense (hat tip to Amir Khalid) consuming professional resources to draw up! It would need a trillion dollars to build the new plants and clean up the old plants, and we don’t have a supply for some of the nuclear chemistry needed for new weapons (but there are thousands of inactive but intact devices in bunkers in the desert! There’s our mine for the ingredients, right? Right!)…

    Thanks for writing the original article, congratulations on having it published in such a well known resource, and god help us all in these days !!!

    Any suggestions on where to move quickly? Thinking Tasmania…

  22. 22

    @Mike in DC: The problem with the way the lower-yield option is being floated is that a single type of missile may have a big yield or a smaller one. There is no way to tell by looking at the missile, which will be the case if they are used, so the, um, receiver will have to assume the worst.

    There is a detailed discussion in progress among the deterrence aficionados as to the utility of having these lower-yield weapons to respond in case Russia decides to do an “escalate to de-escalate” strike, meaning that they hit Warsaw or Tallinn or a carrier group with a “little” one, and then we could take out, say, Rostov in response without provoking a full-up nuclear holocaust.

    I am extremely dubious about how that would work.

  23. 23
    PeakVT says:

    I suppose I should respond seriously to Cheryl’s reasonable op-ed.

    1) The latest NPR document should be viewed largely as the chest-thumping of a bunch of boys, lead by the bully in chief. Sadly, the boys in question have real power.
    2) As long as we have nuclear bombs, we need spend money on proper maintenance and safety. Given how defense contracting works these days, we won’t get good value for the money, but unfortunately that’s not a sufficient reason not to spend the money.
    3) Republican incompetence means most of the chest-thumping bits will not be fully funded, and what money is appropriated will ultimately be wasted once a Dem reverses the new policies in (hopefully!) 2021.
    4) Republican incompetence means the important, necessary stuff will not be fully-funded either.

  24. 24

    @J R in WV:

    So they want to build new nuclear weapons with facilities that don’t exist. They expect the non-existent new plants to have these new weapons available within 10 years. These new weapons will solve unspecified international problems somehow, that we can’t solve with the 1550 weapons currently allowed under international agreements, somehow, maybe, they hope.

    Excellent summary! I can turn the keys over to you now.

  25. 25
    TenguPhule says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:

    I am extremely dubious about how that would work.

    Its called the Tinkerbell strategy.

    Clap your hands and believe!

  26. 26
    trollhattan says:

    @Brachiator:
    Civilized people everywhere need to get on the same page with eliminating and not merely reducing nukes. They need to do the same with reversing climate change. Ironic that we find ourselves further, not closer to either of them.

  27. 27
    Chet Murthy says:

    @Jeffro: That’s gotta leave a mark (from her op-ed):

    In other words, people who abuse others, who know no boundaries, cannot be trusted with power.

  28. 28
    Ken says:

    @J R in WV:

    Any suggestions on where to move quickly? Thinking Tasmania…

    Ever read or see On the Beach?

  29. 29
    trollhattan says:

    @Chet Murthy:
    All Republicans in or seeking office: “Jennifer who? Never heard of her.”

    See also, Frum, David (whose “conversion” seems more like morose nostalgia for the neocon era).

  30. 30
    GregB says:

    It seems the crucial paart of the use of low yield nukes relies upon the recipients saying: Oh, just a low yield nuke. All is fine, no needto retaliate.

  31. 31
    Mike in DC says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:
    Agreed. Seems like you need a delivery vehicle with similarly high accuracy and good range, but clearly incapable of delivering a high yield warhead. A smallish cruise missile, albeit with long range (3000 miles?).

  32. 32
    jl says:

    @J R in WV: The words ‘More, Bigger, Stronger’ are worship words that Solve All Problems in Trumpworld.

    Edit: I guess there have been a few times in history where a huge strike with stronger weapons could be argued to have decisively ended conflict, and made the target buckle immediately. US nuclear strikes against Japan at end of WWII would be an example. But Japan knew it would lose eventually anyway by then, the only question was the needless cost incurred before surrender.

    But even so, that is irrelevant now. We don’t live in that world now. Even weak targets (in the context of nukes) of interest have big friends who also have big sticks that they can use against us.

  33. 33
    MomSense says:

    @piratedan:

    well it’s a good thing that we’re so friendly with Russia since Clinton sold them all of our uranium….. /////////////

    That made me laugh out loud. I’m a sucker for gallows humor.

  34. 34
    MomSense says:

    @Brachiator:

    Speaking of Doomsday, I believe the Union of Concerned Scientists moved the Doomsday clock another minute closer to midnight.

    ETA it’s the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

  35. 35

    @Mike in DC: Cruise missiles quickly run into problems with the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty. I’m not up on all the numbers for that treaty.

    I’m also not much for all those intricacies of “signaling” that some of the deterrence pundits get into. Seems to me that any nuke going off changes the game bigtime. Plus it’s not at all clear that the Russians actually have adopted the “escalate to de-escalate” doctrine. But the boys who wrote the NPR want more toys, so this is their justification.

  36. 36
    eemom says:

    May have been linked already. It is bloodcurdling.

    Here’s What War With North Korea Would Look Like

  37. 37
    divF says:

    @Hungry Joe: Actually, that was me.
    Hi, Hungry.

  38. 38
    Brachiator says:

    OT but Holy Shit, Trump don’t give a fuck about staffers who abuse women. From CNN

    President Donald Trump on Friday called the departure of his former staff secretary Rob Porter following allegations of domestic abuse “very sad” and said he wishes Porter “well.”

    The President, in his first public comments since Porter’s resignation on Wednesday, did not express any sympathy for the women Porter allegedly abused — instead pointing to Porter’s claim that “he’s innocent.”

    “I found out about it recently and I was surprised by it,” Trump said. “We certainly wish him well. It’s obviously a very tough time for him. He did a very good job while he was in the White House.”

    “We hope that he will have a wonderful career,” Trump added….

    Trump focused on Porter’s denial of the allegations that he struck his two-ex-wives while they were married.

    “He says he’s innocent, and I think you have to remember that,” Trump said. “He said very strongly yesterday that he’s innocent, but you’ll have to talk to him about that.”

    This is the guy in charge of the nukes. I can imagine him authorizing a strike with no regard to the consequences.

  39. 39
    Gelfling 545 says:

    Speaking of diplomacy, I just read that Pence walked put of a state dinner because N Koreans were present. He reminds me of the irritable, feuding middle school girls I used to teach -and even they had better manners.

  40. 40
    Brachiator says:

    @trollhattan:

    Civilized people everywhere need to get on the same page with eliminating and not merely reducing nukes. They need to do the same with reversing climate change. Ironic that we find ourselves further, not closer to either of them.

    Nukes are still a prestige item. Makes countries feel special, like they belong to an exclusive club. It’s hard to give up that special feeling …

  41. 41
    TenguPhule says:

    @Gelfling 545:

    Speaking of diplomacy, I just read that Pence walked put of a state dinner because N Koreans were present.

    The dinner must have improved immediately upon his absence.

  42. 42
    Brachiator says:

    @Gelfling 545:

    Speaking of diplomacy, I just read that Pence walked put of a state dinner because N Koreans were present.

    So, Pence cannot be in the same room with a woman who is not his wife, or North Korea.

  43. 43

    @Brachiator:

    This is the guy in charge of the nukes. I can imagine him authorizing a strike with no regard to the consequences.

    This is a frequent theme in nuclear Twitter, in response to many of Trump’s actions and words.

    @Gelfling 545: He was late, and there was no seat for him, so he walked around the room shaking hands, skipped the North Koreans. A little later, he refused to stand when the North Koreans entered the stadium.

  44. 44

    Some in Congress are worried about it too.

  45. 45
    Brachiator says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:

    This is the guy in charge of the nukes. I can imagine him authorizing a strike with no regard to the consequences.

    This is a frequent theme in nuclear Twitter, in response to many of Trump’s actions and words.

    Gotta remind myself to never look at nuclear Twitter, for sanity’s sake.

  46. 46
    Mike in DC says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: Can’t we pretty much do this already with a B-2 or F-35 carrying a dial-a-yield bomb? I don’t see the need to modify a Trident missile for this. And you’re right about escalation. Once someone sees a nuke used, all bets are off.

  47. 47
    jl says:

    @Brachiator: The balance of plausibilities of various people’s claims in this particular case is not strong enough for everyone, and doesn’t go in the right direction, for Trump to talk like that, unless he don’t really give a shit about abusive behavior.

  48. 48
    Patricia Kayden says:

    Trump on the wife beater, “He did a good job.” He also asserts that the wife puncher strongly denied the allegations made by his ex-wives.

    This administration is all about defending despicable men from the top down.

  49. 49

    @Patricia Kayden: Its because they are despicable themselves.

  50. 50
    WaterGirl says:

    Is there any chatter about the Democratic minority memo today? Seems like this is day 5 of the 5 days Trump gets to decide. Can he do the equivalent of a “pocket veto” by just not doing anything? Or does he have to publicly decide either yes or no about whether the memo will be released.

  51. 51
    jimmiraybob says:

    I’m just going to take a guess at Pence’s post nuclear exchange posture: “I ain’t never noed nuthin’ about nuthin’!” Which, just happens to be the likely Pence 2020 campaign slogan.

  52. 52
    Gravenstone says:

    @Jeffro: Well, if you saw Trump’s comments on the matter, she’s entirely right. Fucker only lauded Porter and noted his claim of innocence. Zero sympathy the abused ex-wives at all.

  53. 53
    jl says:

    Transfer Trump’s talk about how to judge emotional and physical abuse to another other context, and consider how it would sound.

    “There is a lot of evidence that this person is embezzling money like crazy. But, hey, we have a denial from the accused, and hasn’t been a court trial and legal decision yet, and dammitall, I believe him, so I stand behind him. Too damn bad he had to step away from his job. Damn shame.”

    I guess only difference is that maybe beating up people is less directly related to ability to faithfully perform job duties than stealing money from the till. But given, in this case, Porter’s behavior in trying to cover it up, and evidence of dishonesty in his various stories and appeals/threats to the accusers, there is not even that excuse.

  54. 54
    Yutsano says:

    @schrodingers_cat: It’s true. Every single member of this administration. Every. Single. One. Not one of them has anything resembling a redeeming quality. If not for wingnut welfare all these “people” would be struggling to survive after the Dolt45 interregnum.

    What’s most interesting about this is that the next Republican who wins the White House won’t have the well of former advisors that other administrations have tapped into. So we might get another clown show amateur hour if another one manages to sneak back in.

  55. 55
    Gravenstone says:

    @Hungry Joe:

    “It’ll never work, but that’s a trough I’d love to get my snout into.”

    Bloom County mined that outlook quite aggressively for subject fodder back in the day. Obvious to a cartoonist, so why not people working in even tangentially related fields?

  56. 56

    @Gelfling 545: Diplomacy by throwing tantrums in the T era. We are Americans, we need no manners because we have nukes and are not afraid to use them,

  57. 57
    Ruckus says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:
    JR’s summary is great but I’d change one word. The last one, hope.
    Hope signifies that one has desires but also doubts, at least a semblance of reality. I see none of that here. I’ve seen none since the 40s and the damn things were even discussed as at possible weapon, let alone after they were used.

  58. 58
    VOR says:

    According to Wikipedia we made 2100 Davy Crockett small nukes with yields as low as 10 tons of TNT. But of course they are talking about something which can be fired or dropped from farther away.

  59. 59
    Gravenstone says:

    @Brachiator: Apparently he can manage it to a limited extent, because there are big splashy pictures of him seated at the opening ceremonies within a couple places of Kim Jong Un’s sister, who is part of the NK delegation.

  60. 60
    Mike in DC says:

    @VOR: The B61 bomb can be “dialed” to yields as high as 300kt to as low as 300 tons.

  61. 61
    Ruckus says:

    @Gravenstone:

    so why not people working in even tangentially related fields?

    Snouts too deep into the trough?

  62. 62
    TenguPhule says:

    @Brachiator:

    “He says he’s innocent, and I think you have to remember that,” Trump said.

    I can see Trump has his defense all lined up for why he should not be convicted of treason himself.

  63. 63
    TenguPhule says:

    @Gravenstone:

    Obvious to a cartoonist, so why not people working in even tangentially related fields?

    What was that saying? Being paid a lot to remain in ignorance?

  64. 64
    The Moar You Know says:

    Nukes are still a prestige item. Makes countries feel special, like they belong to an exclusive club. It’s hard to give up that special feeling …

    @Brachiator: That’s not why nations want them.

    The whole world learned a lesson from our post 9/11 invasion of Iraq: if you have nukes, America won’t touch you. If you do not, we will fucking ruin you if we feel like it.

    I can’t blame any country now that wants them or is making active efforts to make or get them. You’d be stupid not to.

  65. 65
    Brachiator says:

    @jl:

    The balance of plausibilities of various people’s claims in this particular case is not strong enough for everyone, and doesn’t go in the right direction, for Trump to talk like that, unless he don’t really give a shit about abusive behavior.

    I’ve heard people try to excuse Trump by saying that he “just misspoke” or that he is clumsy when it comes to expressing emotions. But he can easily defend himself, express belief in his own righteousness very well.

    He’s just callous when it comes to others.

  66. 66
    Jeffro says:

    @eemom: Jesus. I was expecting that WaPo article from about two weeks ago and you went and found one even more terrifying.

    Having read The Stand too many times, I find North Korea’s bioweapons capabilities even more disturbing that their nuclear or chemical ones.

  67. 67
    Brachiator says:

    @The Moar You Know:

    RE:Nukes are still a prestige item. Makes countries feel special, like they belong to an exclusive club. It’s hard to give up that special feeling …

    That’s not why nations want them.

    The whole world learned a lesson from our post 9/11 invasion of Iraq: if you have nukes, America won’t touch you. If you do not, we will fucking ruin you if we feel like it.

    India tested nukes in 1974. They weaponized nuclear weapons in 1988. Pakistan has had nukes since the 80s. Israel may have had nukes since 1966. South Africa had nukes, but has dismantled them.

    There is no real reason for the UK or France to have nukes, except that it marks them as part of the big boy nuclear club.

    China and Russia, of course, have had nukes for some time.

    All pre-9/11

  68. 68
    Jeffro says:

    @Gravenstone: Wait…the ‘stealth basselope’, right? Loved those days…=)

  69. 69
    Yutsano says:

    @Jeffro: Gentlemen! WE HAVE A BASSELOPE GAP!!!
    Good times. He’s still writing up some good’uns.

  70. 70
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @Brachiator: Ukraine gave them up for some vague assurances of territorial integrity, which proved to be completely impotent.

  71. 71
    Leto says:

    Something I haven’t seen mentioned in these talks is how old the security systems are that guard them. On the Navy side, the subs are fairly modern so that isn’t much of a problem. Turning to the USAF, specifically land based, their systems are closing in on 50 years old. Hopefully that’s part of the modernization effort, but usually these things are overlooked.

  72. 72
    🌎 🇺🇸 Goku (aka The Hope of the Universe) 🗳 🌷 says:

    @eemom:

    To modify a phrase from the Cold War, would Trump be prepared to trade San Francisco for Seoul?

    Yeah, I’m pretty sure he would, if only to look big and tough and kill millions of libtards.

    If this were to ever come to pass, I hope blame would be placed on Trump for killing millions.

  73. 73
    Brachiator says:

    @Gin & Tonic:

    Ukraine gave them up for some vague assurances of territorial integrity, which proved to be completely impotent.

    Yep. I think a couple of other former Soviet republics had nukes and gave them up (or maybe transferred them to Russia).

  74. 74
    danielx says:

    @Villago Delenda Est:

    As well you should.

  75. 75
    lgerard says:

    Yipes!

    Now I am more frightened then Omarosa!

  76. 76
    Amir Khalid says:

    @Brachiator:
    I’m with The Moar You Know. I don’t think the point of nuclear weapons is the prestige, as such. (ETA: At least, not primarily.) If it were, Israel would be bragging about its nukes, not hiding them. They’re more like a stand-your-ground weapon for nations.

  77. 77

    @Brachiator:India weaponized in 1998 when the coalition government was headed by the PM from the Indian RWNJ party, BJP for the first time in India’s history. Throwing weight around and making noise is how they roll like all RWNJs anywhere in the world.
    ETA: India exploded its first nuclear device successfully in Pokhran, when Indira Gandhi was the PM. India had just come out of a war with Pakistan and helped birth Bangladesh. Where United States allied with Pak as did China, so it was more than bragging rights that prompted Mrs. G’s decision, I think.

  78. 78
    Yutsano says:

    @schrodingers_cat: And if India was going to get them Pakistan was going to move hell or high water to get them as well. And in the case of Pakistan it’s definitely deterrent. The fact that they haven’t done much sharing of the technology (I believe there is a record they worked with North Korea) is a good testimonial that it was done mostly as a counter to India.

  79. 79
    HeleninEire says:

    This is upsetting me more than when I was in the US. Maybe because I have family there that I love and I don’t want to see them suffer.

    Wasn’t ever worried about me. I was in NYC. One of my best friends, Jonathan, once said to me “Don’t worry. We’ll be in the bar and one of us will say ‘Hey it’s hot in here!’ POOF. ” Yeah. That’s the best scenario.

  80. 80

    @Mike in DC:

    Can’t we pretty much do this already with a B-2 or F-35 carrying a dial-a-yield bomb?

    Pretty much.

    @Brachiator:

    @Gin & Tonic:

    Ukraine gave them up for some vague assurances of territorial integrity, which proved to be completely impotent.

    Yep. I think a couple of other former Soviet republics had nukes and gave them up (or maybe transferred them to Russia).

    When the Soviet Union broke up, they had nuclear missiles stationed in the Soviet Socialist Republics of Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan. After December 25, 1991, those were independent countries. Russia inherited the USSR’s status at the United Nations and in the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty as the nuclear weapon state; the other three joined the NPT as non-nuclear weapon states.

    Kazakhstan and Belarus sent theirs back to Russia immediately. Ukraine figured they were a bargaining chip and held out for money, which they got. All three nations were assured, in the Budapest Memoranda, that the other nations involved (like Russia) would respect their territorial integrity. Being neighbor to Russia is not fun.

  81. 81
  82. 82
    Brachiator says:

    @Amir Khalid:

    I’m with The Moar You Know. I don’t think the point of nuclear weapons is the prestige, as such. (ETA: At least, not primarily.) If it were, Israel would be bragging about its nukes, not hiding them. They’re more like a stand-your-ground weapon for nations.

    There are ways to let people know you are packing nuclear heat without bragging. Moar talked about getting nukes as a reaction to the post 9/11 world. This is simply false with respect to the nations I mentioned.

    Also, I think there were celebrations when Pakistan and India announced that they had nukes (some of this might have been a reaction to announcements about missles). And to be fair, announcements of peaceful technology, such as space exploration rockets, gets applause as well. This is the prestige of demonstrating technological sophistication. Having nukes is part of this.

    And of course, Pakistan’s acquisition of the bomb had much to do with its paranoia with respect to India.

    Ultimately, however, nuclear weapons give Pakistan reassurance that it will never be humiliated the way it was in 1971, when Indian forces decisively defeated Pakistan in a two-front war that lead to the independence of east Pakistan as Bangladesh. …

    Pakistan conducted peaceful nuclear research from the time of its independence but began a nuclear weapons program in earnest only after its defeat by India in 1971. India itself conducted a nuclear test in 1974 and rejected proposals for a nuclear free zone in South Asia. Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program began in 1972 under Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who had always been a proponent of going nuclear. Bhutto famously declared: “If India builds the bomb, we will eat grass or leaves, even go hungry, but we will get one of our own.”

    Moar did not consider the specific details of the India/Pakistan rivalry in his statement that getting nukes is a reaction to what America does.

  83. 83

    @Yutsano: There has been a lot of bad blood between India and Pak because of how both countries came into being but there is also a lot of goodwill at the people to people level. There is shared history and culture of over a millennia. I think were Pak not effectively ruled by a military junta we would see better relations between the two countries.
    ETA: My housemates in college were a Pakistani brother and sister, we all got along so well. We had so much in common.

  84. 84

    Nuclear weapons are indeed prestigious, and part of the reason for having them is to prove that a nation’s scientific and engineering prowess is good enough to build them.

    But they are also good for deterrence. Of George Bush’s “Axis of Evil” – Iraq, Iran, and North Korea – guess which one didn’t have a nuclear weapons program.

    For that matter, look at North Korea and look at the article that eemom posted. That’s deterrence: You don’t want this to happen? Don’t even try to whack us.

    The whole deterrence discussion has become so convoluted, though. And it’s almost not possible to say that North Korea is deterring the United States and, for that matter, China. Deterrence implies vulnerability, and we all know that Real Men are not vulnerable.

  85. 85
    TenguPhule says:

    @schrodingers_cat:

    I think were Pak not effectively ruled by a military junta we would see better relations between the two countries.

    And if India was not currently ruled by RWNJ determined to kill everyone who likes beef.

  86. 86
    Yutsano says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:

    Being neighbor to Russia is not fun.

    I wonder if one of the reasons Estonia jumped on the cyber bandwagon so early was so they could defend themselves from the Russians in the cyber realm better. Or even attack if it became necessary.

    Well that and building their industrial base since Estonia doesn’t really have much else.

  87. 87

    @TenguPhule: They are bad, no argument from me. But they have been in charge only since 2014, while the military junta has been charge in Pakistan since Jinnah died. Relations with India were not all that wonderful even before then.
    BJP is the biggest threat that independent India has faced, no doubt. They could give Rs lessons in dirty politics.

  88. 88
    TenguPhule says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: And of course Trump understands none of this and agitates for a “Bloody Nose” Strategy, which is precisely one of the things North Korea is racheting up their armaments to deter.

  89. 89
    TenguPhule says:

    @schrodingers_cat:

    But they have been in charge since 2014, while the military junta has been charge since Jinnah died.

    The alternative to the junta is Pakistan’s own RWNJ, IIRC. Main reason we support them is that at least the junta understands the nukes should be kept under tight security.

  90. 90
    Yutsano says:

    @schrodingers_cat: I’ve seen it explained that the only major difference between Hindu and Urdu is the script and a few vocabulary words. They’re essentially the same language. Partition probably divided families for generations afterwards. It destroyed communities and in the end only created two states inclined to enmity with each other despite how similar the histories were.

  91. 91
    The Moar You Know says:

    India tested nukes in 1974. They weaponized nuclear weapons in 1988. Pakistan has had nukes since the 80s. Israel may have had nukes since 1966. South Africa had nukes, but has dismantled them.

    There is no real reason for the UK or France to have nukes, except that it marks them as part of the big boy nuclear club.

    China and Russia, of course, have had nukes for some time.

    All pre-9/11

    @Brachiator: I know all that. Not referring to past history. Motivations changed after Iraq Adventure II. Both NK’s and Iran’s programs went from “experimental” to “national priority #1” after 2001 and that is not because they felt some vague need for more national prestige.

  92. 92
    TenguPhule says:

    A Navy fighter pilot who less than five months ago became head of Navy forces in the Middle East has been selected as the next commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor.

    Secretary of Defense James Mattis announced today that Donald Trump nominated Vice Adm. John C. Aquilino for the rank of four-star admiral and the important Hawaii job at a time of concern over fleet operations and safety in the region and extreme tensions with North Korea.

    Because Trump nominated him, there must be something wrong with him.

  93. 93

    @Yutsano: Its the same language, Hindustani. My Pakistani housemates were Shia Muslims from the upper crust of Pakistani society, and their family was originally from India. They were not happy with the increasing Islamization of Pak either.

  94. 94
    Gex says:

    @MomSense: Actual FB post of mine on November 9, 2016: I wish I could invest in gallows humor futures.

    I would be obscenely rich by now.

  95. 95
    TenguPhule says:

    California police worked with neo-Nazis to pursue ‘anti-racist’ activists, documents show

    California police investigating a violent white nationalist event worked with white supremacists in an effort to identify counter-protesters and sought the prosecution of activists with “anti-racist” beliefs, court documents show.

    The records, which also showed officers expressing sympathy with white supremacists and trying to protect a neo-Nazi organizer’s identity, were included in a court briefing from three anti-fascist activists who were charged with felonies after protesting at a Sacramento rally. The defendants were urging a judge to dismiss their case and accused California police and prosecutors of a “cover-up and collusion with the fascists”.

    Defense lawyers said the case at the state capital offers the latest example of US law enforcement appearing to align with neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups while targeting anti-fascist activists and Donald Trump protesters after violent clashes.

  96. 96
    father pusbucket says:

    Looks to me like they can’t do what they want with the resources they’ve got.

    Thank you. I’m learning to celebrate tiny victories.

  97. 97
    Yutsano says:

    @TenguPhule: Seems awful fast of a shuffle, especially at a time when the Middle East fleet is rather important.

    As to anything wrong with him: if you’re going to become an admiral you’re a politician of some sort. Same with general of any service. But I know nothing about him.

  98. 98
    Gravenstone says:

    @Jeffro: Among other applications. I’ll have to refresh myself, but I recall a spaceborne net crafted from US dollars.

  99. 99
    Brachiator says:

    @schrodingers_cat:

    ETA: India exploded its first nuclear device successfully in Pokhran, when Indira Gandhi was the PM. India had just come out of a war with Pakistan and helped birth Bangladesh. Where United States allied with Pak as did China, so it was more than bragging rights that prompted Mrs. G’s decision, I think.

    Yep. A lot of people do not know or forget that the US allied with Pakistan during the Bangladesh war. And India dealt Pakistan an absolutely humiliating military defeat. From a New York Times story (sorry):

    This time, the Vajpayee Government appeared keen to heighten the symbolism of the tests, staging them on the same Buddhist festival day as the first Indian test in 1974. According to nuclear scientists who oversaw the first test, the code message flashed to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi confirming the test’s success was, ”The Buddha is smiling.”

    But Indian commentators noted that Mr. Vajpayee’s statement differed in one important respect from Mrs. Gandhi’s announcement nearly a quarter of a century ago. Mrs. Gandhi had described the test at Pokharan as a ”peaceful” explosion, setting the theme for all subsequent Indian policy statements on the country’s nuclear program until today.

    By avoiding the word ”peaceful” in his announcement today, Mr. Vajpayee appeared to signal that the days of artful ambiguity about India’s plans are at an end. For years, the Hindu nationalists, led by Mr. Vajpayee’s Bharatiya Janata Party, have called for India to take a more assertive role in its dealings with the world, one that the nationalists believe is more appropriate for a nation with a 5,000-year history and a population, now nearing 980 million, that means nearly one in every five human beings is an Indian….

    The core of the new Government’s thinking seemed to be represented by Kushabhau Thakre, the president of the Bharatiya Janata Party, who said the tests showed that the Vajpayee Government ”unlike previous regimes, will not give in to international pressure.”

    Strategists who have the ear of the Hindu nationalists have argued that India’s deference to American pressures put the country at risk of being permanently stunted as a nuclear power.

  100. 100
    Aardvark Cheeselog says:

    @Brachiator:

    Nukes are still a prestige item. Makes countries feel special, like they belong to an exclusive club. It’s hard to give up that special feeling …

    There are practical considerations, also. Can you seriously imagine Iraq happening, if Saddam had demonstrated a working nuke?

  101. 101

    @Brachiator: I am not an unqualified fan girl of Mrs Gandhi, but she had a spine of steel.

  102. 102

    @Brachiator: Hindu nationalists can go fuck themselves, they were by and large absent during India’s freedom struggle and many were outright collaborators. I take anything they say with a grain, no make it a bucket of salt.

  103. 103
    Aardvark Cheeselog says:

    @Mike in DC:

    Can’t we pretty much do this already with a B-2 or F-35

    Tridents can ignore air defenses altogether. Even stealth aircraft have some radar cross-section and IR emissions.

  104. 104
    Brachiator says:

    @The Moar You Know:

    Motivations changed after Iraq Adventure II. Both NK’s and Iran’s programs went from “experimental” to “national priority #1” after 2001 and that is not because they felt some vague need for more national prestige.

    There is nothing vague about the ego stroke of national prestige. Ask Trump or the leader of North Korea. And Iran wants nukes because they hate Israel even more than they hate America. A post 9/11 world is part of the motivation, not the only one.

  105. 105
    TenguPhule says:

    California Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia took a voluntary unpaid leave of absence today, a day after sexual misconduct allegations against her became public.

    Garcia, a Democrat and chair of the Legislative Women’s Caucus, is accused of groping former legislative staff member Daniel Fierro in 2014, an allegation she denies. He reported the claim in January and it is now under formal investigation. Garcia said she’s taking leave to avoid distractions and any appearance of influence over the investigation.

    “Upon reflection of the details alleged, I am certain I did not engage in the behavior I am accused of,” Garcia said in a statement. “However, as I’ve said before, any claims about sexual harassment must be taken seriously, and I believe elected officials should be held to a higher standard of accountability. “

    Fierro did not comment on Garcia’ decision. He’s accused her of stroking his back, grabbing his buttocks and trying to grab his crotch in the dugout after a legislative softball game. An anonymous male lobbyist told Politico on Thursday that Garcia made a crude sexual remark and tried to grab his crotch at a May 2017 fundraiser.

    Both the lobbyist and Fierro said Garcia appeared to be drunk at the time of the incidents.

    Garcia, of Bell Gardens, has been a prominent voice for women’s rights since she was elected in 2012, and more recently has spoken out in support of the #MeToo movement that’s gripped the California Capitol and the nation.

    She was one of nearly 150 women to sign an open letter in October calling out a pervasive culture of sexual harassment at the Capitol and said she herself has been the target of groping and inappropriate remarks by people in the building. On Monday, she spoke at a rally outside the Capitol in favor of legislation signed by Gov. Jerry Brown giving legislative staff members whistleblower protections for reporting sexual misconduct or other misbehavior.

  106. 106
    TenguPhule says:

    @Brachiator:

    And Iran wants nukes because they hate Israel even more than they hate America.

    Does Iran really want nukes? I recall on this very blog that all the hype turned out be a lot of smoke and mirrors by the Bushies post Iraq.

  107. 107
    Amir Khalid says:

    @schrodingers_cat:
    Pakistan is a predominantly Sunni country, if I recall correctly, which means its islamisation is a Sunni-dominated enterprise. And Sunnis and Shia have been at loggerheads with each other since long before the Catholic-Protestant divide even existed. In predominantly Sunni Muslim nations there does tend to be a lot of discrimination against Shia — often political repression as well. And it’s worse where the ruling elite is more outwardly devout.

  108. 108

    @Amir Khalid: Plus they were Urdu speaking Mohajirs, and only a tiny sliver of Pakistanis speak Urdu as their first language, the national language.

  109. 109

    OT but we are back from Mr DAW’s doc appointment. The news is once again good but not conclusive. The MRI says the mass on his pancreas looks like a benign cyst. That’s good. But they also did a blood test for tumor markers and that’s elevated so they’re not as comfortable as they’d like to be with that diagnosis. So next Tuesday, he sees a pancreas specialist.

    I appreciate all the sympathy, but you can stop if you want. This could drag on.

  110. 110

    I must have said a bad word because I have a comment in moderation just above. Can someone kick it loose?

  111. 111
    Brachiator says:

    @Aardvark Cheeselog:

    There are practical considerations, also. Can you seriously imagine Iraq happening, if Saddam had demonstrated a working nuke?

    This is another reason the Iraq War was such BS. The US or Israel would have quietly dealt with Saddam had he really had nukes.

  112. 112
    Another Scott says:

    In other news, LOLGOP:

    LOLGOP‏ @LOLGOP

    Studies consistently show immigrants are far less likely to commit crimes than members of the Trump’s administration.

    12:48 PM – 9 Feb 2018

    Yup, yup…

    Cheers,
    Scott.

  113. 113
    Brachiator says:

    @TenguPhule:

    Does Iran really want nukes?

    Good question. We should be skeptical about this. I’d probably greatly respect Cheryl’s opinion on this.

  114. 114
    Brachiator says:

    @Another Scott:

    Studies consistently show immigrants are far less likely to commit crimes than members of the Trump’s administration.

    I love this!!

  115. 115
    Another Scott says:

    @Aardvark Cheeselog: Tridents are great until they aren’t. Eventually our adversaries will be able to track our subs, and then what? Having most or all our important eggs in a submarine basket won’t forever be sensible.

    Yeah, it’s tough to stop a warhead on its terminal approach. But the platforms matter too.

    Cheers,
    Scott.
    (“Who hopes we’ll agree to get rid of all the warheads before someone decides that sinking the boomers is the way to win…”)

  116. 116
    Enhanced Voting Techniques says:

    @Aaron:

    You forgot the most important payment mechanism: Ask Mexico to pay for it!

    That won’t pay for the best and most awesome nuclear weapons ever; North Korea will pay for them!

  117. 117

    @Brachiator: Iran is willing to put up with the most invasive nuclear inspections ever, if in return they can begin to integrate back into the world economy. The Trump administration is trying to throw a monkey wrench in the latter. We’ll see how it works out.

  118. 118
    jl says:

    Mattis says he opposes any deportations for Dreamers going into, currently in, or honorably discharged from, military. In any other administration, that would be good news and one part of Dreamer mess solved. But what does the racist WH flunky Miller have to say about it? And what will happen when Trump gets irritated and changes his mind (Assuming Trump knows anything about it at all)?

    Mattis vows ‘Dreamers’ serving in military will not be deported
    BRETT SAMUELS , The Hill

    ‘ Matts said the protections apply to those who benefit from the program who are on active duty, in the active reserves, have already signed a contract with the military and are waiting to go to boot camp and veterans who left with an honorable discharge.

    “They will not be subject to any kind of deportation,” he said.

    There are two exceptions to the protection, Mattis noted: If someone has committed a serious felony, or if a federal judge has signed a final deportation order.

    “That would be a judicial action that obviously we obey in the court system. We don’t have veto authority over a court,” Mattis said of the latter.

    Mattis also said he spoke with Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen earlier in the day to confirm the protections.

    “We have been through this in great detail before … so it’s really just a confirming call,” he said. ‘

    http://thehill.com/policy/defe.....e-deported

    Found via Josh Marshall’s twitter.

  119. 119
    Roger Moore says:

    @TenguPhule:

    Does Iran really want nukes?

    They had a nuclear program that was obviously intended to be able to produce weapons, not just electrical power. OTOH, they seem to be willing to bargain that nuclear program away in exchange for other concessions. I think they’re mostly interested in security. Nukes were one way to achieve that security, and trading away the nuke program for other concessions was another.

  120. 120
    TenguPhule says:

    @Another Scott:

    Eventually our adversaries will be able to track our subs, and then what?

    Lots of luck on that one. Short of building thousands of specialized deep sea killer drones, spotting and sinking a nuclear sub is one of those needle in a fucking ocean things. The only real vulnerable points would be at port or rising to launch payload, other then that they’re the next best thing to invisible and unhittable.

  121. 121
    Enhanced Voting Techniques says:

    @TenguPhule:Iran wants them because Israel and Pakistan have nukes. The entire world isn’t about the US.

    Also, who is more likely to do and be effective at regime change in North Korea; the US or China?

  122. 122
    jl says:

    @Roger Moore: There can a mix of motives for specific cases. Iran’s nuke program predates its Islamic revolution, back to the days of the Shah. So, the view of Iranian population, maybe that it as a symbol of the country’s sovereignty and equality among nations.

    Back in the days of the Shah, I think the US decided that Iran having a nuke program was a good idea since it was an ally, even though it had a lot in common with the recent Iranian program (that is, could have resulted in weapons quickly if Iran decided to go that direction). I forget how the US sponsored Iran nuke program developed in years immediately prior to the revolution. (As I interpret it, Wiki (Nuclear program of Iran) article implies that US knew the program could be weaponized quickly and didn’t care that much about it)

    After Iraq and Libya, maybe Iran would only trust a trade away of its nukes for security if the trade was guaranteed by a very strong multilateral commitment among major nuclear powers (would not even consider trusting or negotiating with US alone).

  123. 123
    TenguPhule says:

    @Enhanced Voting Techniques:

    Iran wants them because Israel and Pakistan have nukes.

    But do they really? I recall they’ve put up with a lot of shit about their nuclear programs, but have consistently maintained it was for civilian development. The enrichment could plausibly be duel use, but I recall clearly that every report about “Iran is rushing to get a bomb” was always another Freidman unit.

  124. 124
    Robert Sneddon says:

    @TenguPhule: The term of art is “breakout capability” i.e. how quickly from existing facilities and knowledge within the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty limitations could some place like Iran get a working deliverable weapon. Japan, for example is about a year to 18 months from having practical deliverable nuclear weapons. They have a breeder reactor which can produce Pu-239, a prototype PUREX extraction facility to separate out that Pu-239 from exposed U-238 targets and a production PUREX facility which isn’t quite complete (and keeps on being delayed since its public raison d’etre is to process spent power-station fuel which Japan doesn’t really need to do). They also have the otherwise-pointless Epsilon space launcher which is an ICBM in civilian drag (it can be launched by a crew of eight people, a lot less than the launch command centre of even SpaceX).

    Iran is way behind the curve compared to Japan — no breeder, no PUREX production facility, no experience producing highly-enriched uranium with their centrifuge lines. The basics are in place for a breakout if they deem it necessary though.

  125. 125
    Repatriated says:

    @TenguPhule: At this point, they don’t need nukes. We lack the forces to invade and occupy them, and they have the other P5+1 nations in the nuke deal to rebut American attempts to fabricate a causus belli. An unjustified attack would likely result in international sanctions against the US proportionate to the scale of the attack.

  126. 126
    Repatriated says:

    @Enhanced Voting Techniques: Neither of those countries are likely to first-strike Iran except to preempt their getting a nuclear capability. Stopping development forestalls that.

  127. 127

    @Robert Sneddon: “Breakout time” is defined for Iran as the time to accumulate enough fissile material for a weapon. That’s different from how much time it would take to make a weapon. A number of us argued against that definition, but the negotiations needed a benchmark, and this one was easy to define and understand. But people still take it to be the time to make a weapon.

    Japan has a real head start with its almost 11 tons of reactor plutonium. They’re smart enough to design around the limitations of reactor plutonium.

  128. 128
    Repatriated says:

    One last comment on a fading thread:
    It occurs to me that the administration’s desire for a more flexible nuclear capability is a tacit admission that we lack the conventional capability to avoid going nuclear to avoid defeat in a potential conflict (foreseen or not).

    This is analogous to our doctrine in Europe in the 1960s, when faced with apparent overwhelming Soviet armored forces.
    ETA: including “neutron bombs’ in the ’70s.

  129. 129
    Hungry Joe says:

    @divF: Oh, hey! How’ve you been? Sorry I screwed up that story — I’d somehow remembered that you heard the line, not that you had come up with it yourself. All credit to divF.

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