Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Human Health in the Spotlight
Arms Control as a Public Health Issue, Part II

Yesterday it was my intent to finish up this series by research and commenting upon the Kerry and Edwards positions on disarmament.  Since then, it has happened that Edwards has indicated that he plans to drop out of the race.  (And Dean has finally won a primary, although I doubt he plans to rejoin the campaign actively.)  Also, I have run across some comments about Bush's disarmament posture, which should be added to my previous analysis.  The first  comments occur in a Special Report in the Economist; the second occur in their Global Agenda column.  Since the website is fully open only to subscribers, I will not quote much directly.  I will add, though, that they have written quite a lot on the subject of disarmament.  It seems that European economists are interested in the topic; perhaps more so than the Americans.  It is likely that Europeans, having had a lot more experience being bombed, have a greater motivation to think about disarmament. 


A world wide web of nuclear danger

Feb 26th 2004
From The Economist print edition

[...]Next year's five-yearly [Nuclear Non-Proliferation] treaty review already looks likely to turn into a bad-tempered huddle. Many governments view as discriminatory the existing restrictions imposed by the Nuclear Suppliers' Group (NSG), an informal cartel that brings together most of the world's leading nuclear exporters (China is soon to be included in the group), and attempts to control the trade in dual-use nuclear technology and equipment.

Others fret that commitments made by the five nuclear-haves when the treaty was extended indefinitely in 1995 have not all been met. America's president, George Bush, refuses to ratify the promised Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty. And while nuclear-weapon numbers have come down (of the five, only China is still expanding its arsenal), they could fall a lot further. Meanwhile, America is conducting research into bunker-buster bombs, for possible use against deeply buried targets, and small nuclear warheads. Why should countries that feel insecure not be tempted to build nuclear weapons, ask critics, when the world's strongest military power still thinks it might need new ones?[...]

Proliferating worries

Mar 1st 2004
From The Economist Global Agenda

{...]TALKS aimed at getting North Korea to stop trying to make nuclear weapons ended on Saturday February 28th with no significant breakthrough, but with all sides saying they are prepared to keep talking. The bare bones of a possible deal had emerged on Friday: North Korea would end its military nuclear programme in return for aid from China, Russia and South Korea. However, North Korea claimed America was blocking a breakthrough. Delegates from the six countries involved—America, the two Koreas, China, Japan and Russia—struggled to agree a joint statement after America and Japan rejected a draft proposed by China, because it failed to talk of a “complete, verifiable and irreversible” end to North Korea's nuclear programmes. The talks finally broke up with America saying it was “pleased with the high degree of co-operation”, while admitting that key differences remained, and North Korea berating America for ignoring its overtures and trying to isolate it. The participants said they would hold another round of talks before the end of June, and that they would set up working groups which could meet outside of official talks and might allow for more-detailed private discussions.[...]

[...]Unlike North Korea’s Mr Kim, Libya’s equally eccentric dictator, Muammar Qaddafi, has now promised to abandon his nuclear programmes and is apparently co-operating fully with the IAEA. Last week, the agency’s head, Mohamed ElBaradei, said he hoped the Libyan weapons programme would be dismantled by June. He also said Libya was helping the IAEA to find out whether other countries had got their hands on designs for nuclear warheads from Pakistan via the black market. As a reward for good behaviour, America has lifted some of its sanctions against Libya.[...]

In accordance with fair use policy, I have included only the paragraphs that relate directly to my topic: considering the public health issue of disarmament as it relates to USA Election 2004.  What we see is another "mixed verdict."  Bush has rewarded Libya for giving up their program, which seems wise.  His administration has not made progress with North Korea.  I don't know of any objective way to ascribe blame here, since North Korea is likely to be as much at fault as the USA.  The ongoing research in the USA, regarding bunker-busters and smaller tactical warheads, appears unwise.  With fuel-air explosives, Daisy Cutters, and MOABS, it is not obvious to a civilian why we would need smaller tactical nukes. 

On the subject of small tactical nukes, a technothriller writer named Joe Buff has written some novels in which he explains his ideas on the subject.  His concern is that, if other countries develop such weapons, they could conceivably use them against us while promising not to escalate to the use of larger-yield devices.  This would put us in the position of risking escalation to a mutually-assured destruction scenario.  In such a position, without comparable limited-yield weapons, we could be forced into making significant strategic concessions. 

Additional insight can be gained from the analysis prepared by Sam Cohen and Joe Douglass in their March 9,2003 article  for Financial Sense Online (economists again!).  They present some background on the topic of neutron bombs and suitcase bombs.  Of some interest to current voters is their statement about Bush 41 and Colin Powell:

[...]The motivation is the operational need for a low-yield weapon that could be used to attack and totally destroy chemical and biological stockpiles, many of which are underground, without the massive damage associated with the high-yield strategic warheads that constitute the working stockpile.

[...]The neutron bomb was not only squelched, but all development stopped as a matter of policy because it was even worse than low-yield nuclear warheads in eroding the nuclear firebreak. It was revived in the 1970s in an effort to bolster NATO defense forces. Neutron warheads were produced and deployed during the Reagan Administration, then eliminated by President Bush the elder upon General Colin Powell’s recommendation. This brought an end to the last of the tactical nuclear weapons.[...]

They cast doubt on the viability and sustainability of a current USA initiative to develop small nukes:

[...]The formation of the design teams may cause concern that this is just a first step in a progression whose logical end is the acquisition of new families of “usable” low-yield nuclear warheads. This, however, is not the case. First, Congressional restrictions against the development of low-yield warheads were enacted several years ago. Second, the so-called “revival” in U.S. interest, to the extent it really exists, will pass. It has come and gone before. The technology is not new; adequate designs that have already been tested have existed for 40 years. The same reasons that defeated the ideas in the early 1960s and every decade thereafter in addition to the shut-down of the production capabilities almost certainly guarantee that even if those at the top wanted to revive the capability, this is unlikely to happen. That is, the environment ensures that low-yield warheads will not be available when we need it and that we will adapt to this condition as we have done before. [...]

They refer to a WaPo article on the subject:

U.S. Explores Developing Low-Yield Nuclear Weapons

By Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 20, 2003; Page A09

The Bush administration is reviving interest in developing low-yield nuclear devices that could be used to destroy targets, such as reinforced bunkers holding chemical or biological weapons, with less damage to the surrounding area than today's giant warheads, according to administration officials and government scientists.

The program is based on views within the nation's nuclear weapons laboratories that as the United States reduces its stockpiles of larger nuclear weapons, it should replace them with smaller numbers of low-yield bombs. Low-yield nuclear weapons have much less explosive power than the large nuclear bombs that comprise today's strategic arsenal. Nuclear weapons strategists believe low-yield weapons would be a more credible deterrent against outlaw states and terrorist organizations with weapons of mass destruction. Since the bombs would inflict much less damage to the area outside the target than high-yield devices, the threshold for using them presumably would be lower.

{...]The Nuclear Posture Review called for the reduction by two-thirds of the country's 6,000 operational nuclear warheads and bombs over the next 10 years. It provided for keeping several thousand warheads in a strategic reserve and allowed for the development of new weapons based on changed security requirements.

Under an arms control treaty reached by President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin last May, Russia committed itself to wholesale reductions in its strategic nuclear arsenal as well.

One of the most controversial features of the Nuclear Posture Review is that it seemingly left the door open to using nuclear weapons for a preemptive attack on a threatening foreign country. The new study of low-yield nuclear devices would be compatible with that provision.

Another matter before the August conference will be the prospect of resuming nuclear testing, the notes said. The conference also will study the impact of a resumption of testing on public opinion in the United States and abroad.

"They are going to discuss not only weapons and testing policies but the politics to get them approved," said Greg Mello, director of the Los Alamos Study Group. "It's rare that so many details about the nuclear weapons agenda of the Bush administration would appear in one document."

The August conference comes on top of the administration's 2004 budget request, which seeks money to continue refurbishing and modernizing thousands of deployed nuclear warheads. It also calls for study of a "robust earth penetrator," a nuclear device that would destroy buried, hardened underground bunkers for command posts or weapons storage.

The Nuclear Security Administration, which runs the nation's nuclear weapons complex at the Energy Department, is requesting $6.4 billion next year, an increase from this year's $5.9 billion and almost $1 billion above the last budget presented by the Clinton administration. The new request calls for $15 million for the earth penetrator and $21 million for two of the nation's national nuclear weapons laboratories, Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore, to assemble design teams to study advanced nuclear concepts. The teams are being created so that the United States has the expertise to build new weapons or change existing ones, senior Energy Department officials said.

Last week, a House Republican policy committee recommended that the Pentagon's Nuclear Weapons Council revitalize advanced nuclear weapons development and that Congress consider repealing a 10-year ban on research on low-yield nuclear weapons, those whose explosions are less than 5 kilotons, the explosive equivalent of 5,000 tons of TNT.

The Cohen and Douglass opinion notwithstanding, I find the WaPo article to be highly disturbing.  I am not impressed by the presumed need to have a way to totally destroy biological and chemical weapons stockpiles.  Sure, it would be quick, convenient, and relatively cheap just to nuke them; but I have to believe it would be less geopolitically provocative to use traditional means of decommissioning.  Besides, you have to find the WMD's  before you need to destroy  them. 

In conclusion, what we see here is evidence that the Bush 43 administration is spending $6.4 billion (that we don't have; we have to increase the deficit) in order to recreate something that Colin Powell and Bush 41 eliminated over a decade ago.  The current Bush administration is doing this despite the fact that it threatens to weaken our credibility in our own efforts to pursue the goals of global disarmament.  If The Economist article is correct, that "Next year's five-yearly treaty review already looks likely to turn into a bad-tempered huddle,"  credibility is something we can not afford to squander for questionable strategic purposes. 

Some may be tempted to doubt this conclusion, by saying that there must be more to it, Bush could not be that dumb.  I would agree, there must be more to it.  Bush would not spend so much of our money, in the face of a deficit, unless there is some reason.  This is an anomaly that deserves as explanation.  If the reason is not grounded in military strategy, what could it be?  is there a political motive.  There could be, if he thinks that he will get more votes by spending the money on a weapons program.  It is possible that certain elements in his political base would view expenditure as an affirmation of our military power, and thus be more inclined to vote for him.  But the political downside of increasing the deficit would seem to offset this.

If the motivation is not politics, is there another possibility?  Money, of course, is the most common motivating factor, so it is reasonable to try see if there could be a financial motive.  The six point four billion dollars will go somewhere; it does not just disappear.  Some will go to government workers at Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore.  Most of it, though, will go to military contractors. 

It is hazardous to try to ascertain someone else's motivations.  Part of the hazard stems from the inherent difficulty and uncertainty: often, even a person engaging in a given behavior does not really know what his or her own motivations are.  Therefore, it is difficult for a second party to know, with any reasonable degree of certainty, what motivates another.  Another part of the hazard is that attributing motives to others can be disparaging.  In the USA, it is traditional to not impugn someone's motives without a preponderance of the evidence.  This is the doctrine of innocent until proven guilty.  So, is there evidence that Bush 43, or whoever is influencing him, be motivated by crass financial concerns?

For insight into this question, it may be informative to look at an analysis  prepared by Craig Hulet, published on the italy.indymedia.org  site.  (Craig B Hulet was Special Assistant for Special Projects to Congressman Jack Metcalf (R.Ret.) and is periodically consultant with ATF&E US Dept. Justice Homeland Security; Hulet is author of "The Hydra of Carnage: Bush's Imperial War-making and the Rule of Law." 2002)  I cannot speak for his credibility, but I note that he formerly was employed by a Republican Congressman, and he consults with the Department of Homeland Security.  He refers to  reports:Task Force Report: The Israeli-Palestinian Issue, The Washington, D.C., Plenary Meeting of the Trilateral Commission, April 1990; and  Strategic Energy Policy 2001: Report of an Independent Task Force, Cosponsored by James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy of Rice University, and other documents related to the Cheney Strategic Energy Plan:

[...]In particular, the development both of nuclear weapons and chemical weapons in the region would scarcely have been possible without access to Western materials and technology, and there has been a notable failure to face up to the fact of, and the implications of, these leakages both Israel and to Arab States such as Iraq. Peace and stability in the Middle East will be difficult to ensure without a major international initiative designed to undo this damage-an initiative which may now be more readily achieved by agreement between East and West as a result of greatly improved climate of international relations.[...]

Iraq has been engaged in a clever public relations campaign to intersect these two issues and stir up anti-American sentiment inside and outside the Middle East. The bombing of Iraq by the U.S.-led coalition in February 2001 spurred anti-U.S. demonstrations in support of Iraq in traditional U.S. allies such as Egypt. Moreover, Saddam Hussein is trying to recast himself as the champion of the Palestinian cause to some success among young Palestinians. Any severe violence in the West Bank, Gaza, or southern Lebanon will give Iraq more leverage in its efforts to discredit the United States and U.S. intentions. A focus on the anti-Israeli sympathies of some Arab oil-producing countries diverts attention from the repressive nature of the Iraqi regime. Instead it rewards Iraq in its claim to Arab leadership for “standing up to the United States for ten years.”[...]

Iraq remains a destabilizing influence to U.S. allies in the Middle East, as well as to regional and global order, and to the flow of oil to international markets from the Middle East. Saddam Hussein has also demonstrated a willingness to threaten to use the oil weapon and to use his own export program to manipulate oil markets. This would display his personal power, enhance his image as a “Pan-Arab” leader supporting the Palestinians against Israel, and pressure others for a lifting of economic sanctions against his regime.[...]

Like it or not, Iraqi reserves represent a major asset that can quickly add capacity to world oil markets and inject a more competitive tenor to oil trade. However, such a policy will be quite costly as this trade-off will encourage Saddam Hussein to boast of his “victory” against the United States, fuel his ambitions, and potentially strengthen his regime. Once so encouraged and if his access to oil revenues were to be increased by adjustments in oil sanctions, Saddam Hussein could be a greater threat to U.S. allies in the region if weapons of mass destruction (WMD) sanctions, weapons regimes, and the coalition against him are not strengthened.[...]

The above quotes were taken, by Hulet, from the reports mentioned above.  In his analysis, he concludes:

It was Saddam Hussein’s lock on the Iraqi economy that was at issue, not his threat to U.S. allies in the region, as he had threatened no one in the region at all for over a decade!  [...]

They cannot, you see, allow Iraq to gain a “market share” in oil production and reserve capabilities! [...]

Although the reports he cites contain references to arms control, he concludes that the war in Iraq was not about arms control or military security.  It was about the oil market.  It is my impression that many persons have concluded falsely that the US invaded Iraq in order to take their oil.  It is my opinion that it was done, not to take the oil, but to manipulate the oil market. 

It may appear that I have changed the subject here.  After starting out discussing the issue of arms control as a public health issue, to be considered by voters in the USA in November 2004, I appear to have gone off on a tangent about the motivations for the second Iraq war.  Although the motivation for war is in itself an important topic, that is not my point.  To clarify, my point is that one should not discount the significance of the current Administration's investment in small nuke research.  I think the taxpayer money is being spent in order to enrich military contractors.  In order to make that case, I need to demonstrate that the current Administration is willing to act for financial motives.  Although it is difficult to establish that with certainty, there does appear to be evidence to support the hypothesis.  Therefore, there is reason to suspect that the current Administration is engaging in potentially-destabilizing research on small nukes, with a motive that is not a military one.  It appears that Bush is risking escalation of the arms race, and degrading our credibility in arms control efforts, so that certain companies can make a lot of money.

That is something I would like for voters to consider in November.

Others in the Blogosphere have commented on disarmament as an issue.  Here, DeLong refers to the North Korea situation as a "perilous drama," and criticizes Bush's inflexibility on disarmament issues.  J. Bradford DeLong (another economist!) wrote:

Similarly, Powell has had a few successes at getting Bush to participate in negotiations with North Korea over its nuclear-weapons program. (Cheney and Rumsfeld oppose even sitting down for talks.) Yet Bush has declined to adopt any position on what an acceptable accord, short of North Korea's unilateral disarmament, might be. More than a year into this perilous drama, the fundamentals of U.S. policy haven't changed at all....

Phil Carter, at Intel Dump, has two pertinent posts; one is about the recent Bush proposal to strengthen control over enrichment of fissile material; the other, about land mines.  He is a law student an a former member of the military, and seems to be very well-informed.

New plan to curb the spread of nuclear weapons

The Washington Post reports this morning on a new push by President Bush to strengthen the global arms control regime with respect to fissile material and nuclear-weapons technology, among other things. The effort announced yesterday is mostly a diplomatic/legal effort, and will entail several major changes to existing documents of international and domestic law.[...]

Analysis: As a matter of fact, these non-proliferation regimes are working quite well right now, notwithstanding the popular image of a rogue state with a bomb. The Nunn-Lugar Act and the cooperative threat reduction program it authorizes has been very successful in curbing the movement of fissile material out of the former Soviet Union; it has also helped to secure the technology and knowledge of the former-Soviet nuclear community. I agree that it has been severely underfunded in recent years, and that American would make a better investment if it took some money from missile defense and put it into CTR (as Fred Kaplan and others suggest).

But the real issue here is not the efficacy of these programs. It's whether the U.S. can embark on a major diplomatic and legal initiative in the wake of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and the diplomatic actions it took in the course of this conflict. To say bridges were burned would be to put it mildly.[...]

This stuff is really important, so I hope it works.

White House changes U.S. tack on land mines

The Washington Post reports this morning that the Bush Administration has reversed a pledge by the Clinton Administration to stop using land mines altogether by 2006, instead choosing to implement a selective ban by 2010 with exceptions for South Korea and smart mines. The move predictably enraged human rights advocates, but probably also comforted American military planners worried about maintaining the balance of power (terror) in South Korea.
His ban will apply only to "dumb" mines -- those without self-destruct features. But it will cover devices not only aimed at people but also meant to destroy vehicles. In that way, Bush's policy will extend to a category of mines not included in Clinton's plan, which was limited to antipersonnel devices.[...]

Bush will also propose a 50 percent jump in spending, up to $70 million in fiscal 2005, for a State Department program that provides mine-removal assistance in more than 40 countries, officials said. The program also funds mine-awareness programs abroad and offers some aid to survivors of mine explosions.

A senior State Department official, who disclosed Bush's decision on the condition that he not be named, said the new policy aims at striking a balance between the Pentagon's desire to retain effective weapons and humanitarian concerns about civilian casualties caused by unexploded bombs, which can remain hidden long after combat ends and battlefields return to peaceful use.

Analysis: Actually, the biggest problem right now in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo and Chechnya is not related to landmines. It is related to the use of cluster munitions, like the CBU-87. [...] And this treaty does absolutely nothing to address this problem. Notwithstanding that fact, if you look at the rhetoric of the anti-landmine community, they often talk about these unexploded munitions to make their case stronger, and to implicate the U.S. which generally uses a lot of cluster munitions but not a lot of landmines.[...]

Everyone's always beating up on the U.S. for this issue, but I think that is misguided here. The U.S. does use cluster munitions and those create a problem, but that's not something that this treaty does anything about. Where land mines are concerned, the U.S. is far more conscientious about their use than most countries -- allies and enemies -- for reasons of fratricide and risk management. And, our EOD teams have done more to eliminate this problem in places like Iraq and Afghanistan than we often get credit for. Land mines continue to exact a terrible toll on civilian populations around the world. But by and large, that's due to their indiscriminate use by terrible governments like the Baath Party in Iraq, Khmer Rouge and Taliban -- not their military use by the U.S.

Stuart Hughes at Beyond Northern Iraq has this to say:

The Post says President Bush is to outlaw so-called "dumb" or "inert" landmines -- but allow the unlimited use of what are inappropriately called "smart" mines (BBC News Online also has the story.)

It's a deeply disturbing and utterly cowardly move.

The Bush administration is increasing spending on mine clearance and mine awareness programmes by 50% as a way of deflecting attention from the real issue -- that five years after it was accepted into international law, the USA still has not signed the Ottawa Mine Ban Treaty. That puts America in the same category as every other country in its much-vaunted Axis of Evil -- Iran, Iraq and North Korea (the full list of non-signatories can be found here.)

It would appear that President Bush has abandoned Bill Clinton's plans for a total ban on antipersonnel landmines by 2006.

Any initiative to reduce the use of landmines is, of course, welcome. But if the Bush administration really wants to do something to tackle the worldwide landmine problem it should take the lead and join the 150 countries that have signed the Mine Ban Treaty, which outlaws all anti-personnel mines.

"Abu Aardvark" at the eponymous website, speaks out in favor of UN inspections asa means of arms control:

Serious about security

Fareed Zakaria makes the same point I've been making: ""We were all wrong," says weapons inspector David Kay. Actually, no. There was one group whose prewar estimates of Iraqi nuclear, chemical and biological capabilities have turned out to be devastatingly close to reality—the U.N. inspectors."

It bears repeating again and again how devastating this is for the entire hawkish critique of multilateral arms control. The hawks routinely dismissed and disparaged the UN inspectors for underestimating the Iraqi threat. The urgency of war, and the doctrine of pre-emption, rested entirely on the presumptive Iraqi WMD threat. The hawk critique was two-fold: inspections could not discover the truth, and inspections could not provide security. Both have now been proven false. The inspectors got Iraq's WMD almost exactly right, and at the time the US went to war Iraq posed no threat to American security.[...]

Tim Alleeson at PoliticalDevotions.com has a post referencing a Wall Street Editorial on the Proliferation Security Initiative, which apparently is highly complimentary of the Initiative:

Friday, 9 January 2004
Barbarians With Nuclear Weapons, Part 4

Finally, a bit of good news.

An editorial in yesterday's Wall Street Journal focuses on the new Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) which, in only a few months, has shown itself to be the answer to UN fecklessness in WMD interdiction.

With the help of the German government (no kidding, the German government), the US in a recent PSI operation diverted a freighter bound for Libya and seized thousands of parts for centrifuges, used to manufacture nuclear weapons. Not so coincidentally, last week Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi agreed to open his weapons sites to arms inspections. The Journal notes:

It remains to be seen whether Gadhafi will actually dismantle his program, but at least it's been exposed--no thanks, by the way, to the U.N. agency charged with monitoring such things. Libya's nuclear program was news to the International Atomic Energy Agency, whose inspectors somehow missed it entirely--after they'd earlier missed secret programs in North Korea and Iran.

The PSI offers a better way than traditional arms control to enforce global norms in the age of proliferating WMD. The PSI allies--11 and growing--have agreed to interdict shipments of WMD, delivery systems and related materials at sea, in the air and on land. The original 11 . . . have since been joined by Canada, Denmark, Norway, Singapore and Turkey, which are all offering military support. Meanwhile, more than 50 nations have signed on to PSI's principles and may be called on should their help be needed. [...]

This would appear to indicate that Bush has done some things that have had a positive outcome in the arms control effort.

This was an unscientific survey of Blogosphere commentary about arms control.  I went to Bloglines, ran searches on "disarmament" and "arms control" selecting "all blogs," and picked out the first several that seemed pertinent.  Since the various bloggers have pretty much made their opinions clear, I will not add any concluding statement here.