Surprise! Mike Pompeo’s “Human Rights” Agenda Applies To Only Some Humans

Just Security obtained a copy of Mike Pompeo’s human rights plan, based on what he called “natural law.”

Some of us are old enough to remember when that phrase was used mostly by the Catholic Church to justify their views on marriage and procreation. But apparently the evangelicals have put their own gloss on it so that it excludes the usual suspects – gays, transgender people, and other miscreants – from human rights.

So that is what Pompeo would inflict on us and the world. Trump has already carried out parts of it in his actions against transgender people. I’m not sure that brown families seeking refuge are explicitly listed as those not qualified for human rights, but the administration has sure been acting that way.

Just Security also analyzes where this “natural law” theory came from. It seems to come primarily from several individuals’ needs to demonize teh gays. And, of course, it comes from God or human nature or whatever you need to make your argument unanswerable.

As a 2017 Heritage Foundation report framed the issue: “Civil and political rights are products of government; natural rights are not.”

It’s disturbing that so many in the government belong to extremist sects and are pushing those extremist beliefs. I’d like to see a reporter pin down Pompeo on what he believes about the Rapture. Nobody who believes that should be anywhere near the control of nuclear weapons.



Article In Foreign Policy And Chernobyl Questions

I’ve got an article in Foreign Policy. It’s more than the headline – Anne I. Harrington and I look at the kinds of masculinity that have been associated with control over nuclear weapons and how Trump fits into that.

Also – I think this week’s was the third (?) in the Chernobyl HBO series. As I’ve said before, I’m not watching because I have no desire to see a dramatization of acute radiation syndrome. But I was on a rapid reaction team at Los Alamos to try to figure out if we could help as the news of the accident unfolded. So feel free to ask questions here, and I’ll try to answer them.


Questions To Ask Before Going To War

A hard pushback on the dicey “evidence” the Trump administration didn’t quite present – it’s classified y’know – slowed down John Bolton’s rush to war, but something bit Donald Trump and he has tweeted another implied nuclear threat at Iran. Here are questions that should be considered in going to war.

1. What end state do we hope to achieve through war? This is the basic question of war that Clausewitz has encapsulated in saying that war is the continuation of politics through other means.

It appears that within the top levels of the administration, there is no agreement. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has listed twelve points for Iran to change, which may be administration policy. The bottom line is that Iran must become a different nation. That isn’t going to happen. As war has looked more likely, Trump said that all he wants is for Iran not to build nuclear weapons. That contradicts the more expansive demands he stated when he withdrew the United States from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which keeps Iran from building nuclear weapons. Bolton has wanted a war against Iran for at least a couple of decades. He has never spoken of an end state. Others agitating for war and influential with the administration want Iran to be severely damaged and no longer a power in the region (Israel, Saudi Arabia, and their sympathizers) or to bring on the Rapture through a massive war in the Middle East (Christian extremists).

2. Can that end state be achieved in another way? War should always be a last resort. Neither Trump nor Pompeo nor Bolton has put together a program of diplomacy to achieve their objectives. None has stated an objective clearly. The JCPOA was a diplomatic substitute for war, and probably more effective in keeping Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. If Iran is attacked and North Korea not, one message will be that nuclear weapons can deter the United States. That will be a motivator for Iran to build nuclear weapons. Increased trade, one of the objectives of the JCPOA, would further the possibility of turning Iran toward some of those twelve points.

3. Is there an immediate evil that can be stopped only by military means? A single rocket attack within Baghdad’s Green Zone does not qualify.

4. If military force is called for, how much is necessary and sufficient? Disproportionate response is a war crime. Underresourced war never ends.

5. Are the resources available? Are they needed elsewhere? The United States is engaged in two wars now. President Trump wants to send the military to the border with Mexico. Ships, airplanes, and munitions will be necessary.

6. Are you willing to pay the cost in money and lives? The American people are tired of war. The costs, along with unwarranted tax cuts, are piling up record deficits.

7. Can you count on allies? Trump has alienated most of America’s traditional allies. Israel and Saudi Arabia are ready to fight to the last American.

8. What response is likely from the opposing side? This is why the military uses war games in planning. All the war games that have been done for an attack on Iran show a very difficult and destructive war.

You can probably think of others, but I think these are the main questions. Reporters should have these questions ready for Trump and others on the now rare occasions when they can ask them.


Cross-posted at Nuclear Diner.

I Am Not Watching “Chernobyl”

I’ve watched the trailer. I have no stomach for watching people die from acute radiation sickness. I read the report on Louis Slotin some long time ago, and that was quite enough for me. It’s a horrible way to die.

But I am willing to answer your questions on the series. I was on a rapid response team at the Los Alamos National Laboratory as information about the accident emerged. We were trying to think of ways to help deal with the accident.

The series is supposed to be accurate in terms of the science and the bureaucratic response, according to what I have read. But some of it may not be clear. I’ve receive a question from a longtime lurker about the explosion. The Wikipedia article looks reasonable to me, but here is a quick rundown.

The Chernobyl reactors (called RBMK type, for the Russian designation) were of a design that had a tendency to become more reactive (release more neutrons for chain reactions) under conditions under which most reactors are designed to become less reactive (release fewer neutrons). The operators did a poorly planned safety experiment and lost control of the reactor, which heated up rapidly. The water coolant flashed into steam, which was the explosion. That blew off the top of the reactor and the top of the building, leaving a smoldering mess where the reactor had been. Much of the reactor was graphite, a form of carbon. There are arguments about whether the process amounted to a fire, but it was rapid oxidation of the graphite with heat release from that, along with the heat from the nuclear reactions. My own feeling is that whatever word you want to use is somewhat irrelevant, as long as you recognize the process.

Helicopters dropped sand and boron compounds, which absorb neutrons, to deal with both processes. It took days to bring the reactor fire under control.

The RBMK reactors were widely used in the Soviet Union to produce heat and electricity along with plutonium for weapons. Many still exist but have been modified so that they behave like all other reactors and will not become more reactive in abnormal conditions the way Chernobyl #4 did.

So give me your questions in the comments and I will try to answer them.

Obama Respite Open Thread

 The man whom Chancellor Angela Merkel calls “dear Barack” was back in Berlin on Saturday, his lanky figure and easy smile a reminder for Germans of a different era that ended not so long ago.

But former President Barack Obama had not come to speak about the past. He came to speak to the future: some 300 young leaders from across Europe, who had gathered for a town hall-style meeting in the German capital.

It did not take long for Mr. Obama to touch on one of his main concerns — and the reason he had come to what he called “the heart of Europe.”

Europe, Mr. Obama suggested, is one of the main battlefields between liberal democracy and far-right populism.

“Nationalism, particularly on the far right, is re-emerging,” he told a packed auditorium. “We know where that leads. Europe knows better than anyone where that leads.”

“It leads to conflict, bloodshed and catastrophe,” he said.

This past week was the tenth anniversary of Obama’s speech in Prague on nuclear disarmament. Here’s the transcript and also a video.

Open thread.