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Global Arms Proliferation

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#1 Lazarus Long

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Posted 04 March 2003 - 08:35 PM

Here is hoping that many of you are as capable thinkers, as you have so far appeared to be. In that vein, let us share a little light of truth on an issue everybody is discussing but saying very, very little about of substance.

Direct to you from today's news to hopefully encourage us and others to address the facts, and not simply the polemic about what is going on. It is about time that most people realize that believing you know who is who, has nothing to do with who is doing what and why. Debate the ethics all you want but never forget to follow the money.

2 Indicted in Plot to Buy Arms for Iran
2 hours, 21 minutes ago
By JOHN SOLOMON, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - Two Taiwanese businessmen have been indicted for conspiring to buy U.S. weaponry for Iran, the latest in a string of arms smuggling schemes foiled by stepped up enforcement in the aftermath of Sept. 11, federal authorities announced Tuesday.

An indictment handed down by a grand jury in Baltimore accuses En-Wei Eric Chang, a naturalized U.S. citizen residing in Taiwan, and David Chu, a Taiwanese resident, of trying to purchase early warning radar, Cobra attack helicopters and U.S. spy satellite photos for Tehran in violation of the U.S. embargo against Iran.

Chu was arrested during a sting operation in Guam while Chang remains a fugitive, authorities said.

"The object of the conspiracy was to enrich the defendants by shipping aircraft, helicopter, and weapons system parts to Iran through Taiwan and elsewhere," the indictment said.

Officials said the indictment was the result of a yearlong arms smuggling investigation that grew out of a new cooperative program created by U.S. officials after Sept. 11 that encourages American sellers of sensitive military equipment to report suspicious inquiries and sales.

Authorities said the men first came to their attention after one contacted a Maryland company about buying spy satellite images of Tehran.

Federal agents then set up a fictitious business in Maryland which Chang contacted by e-mail, seeking to purchase the latest military night vision equipment, military helicopters and helicopter parts and special attennae that are used by pilots to detect enemy radar, authorities alleged.

Authorities said they have foiled several other recent attempts by foreigners to smuggle U.S. military materials, including parts for surface-to-air missiles, fighter jets and spymaster equipment, to locations like China, Pakistan and Iran.

In at least one of the cases, Americans have been charged not with knowingly selling military goods to potentially hostile countries but rather allowing themselves to be duped into such sales without regard for where the technology might eventually end up.

While the government long has sought to stop exports of such technologies to banned countries, officials say the recent spate of cases reflects a new approach and heightened awareness that enemies may try to use America's own weapons against it.

"What gives the United States military its edge? Our technology," said U.S. Attorney Thomas DiBiagio, who supervised the Baltimore case. "It's what we have and they want ... Certain countries are willing to pay large amounts of money for it."

"There's a tremendous amount of money to be made by businessmen who can move what we might consider second-hand parts," he added.

The case was led by the new Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Homeland Security successor to the former Customs Service criminal investigations office. It has received numerous recent tips from U.S. companies under a program designed to prompt makers of sensitive technology to report suspicious inquiries and purchases.

Called "Shield America," the initiative already has contacted more than 5,700 U.S. companies and sellers of weapons technology, and the list is growing. Recent investigations have yielded some dramatic results.

Last Thursday, federal prosecutors in Los Angeles announced grand juries had indicted four individuals and three companies with attempting to provide parts for Hawk surface-to-air missiles, TOW anti-tank missiles and Sidewinder air-to-air missiles to China.

The defendants also are accused of selling parts for F-4 Phantom jets and were nabbed as part of a five-year undercover investigation into weapons smuggling to China, officials said.

And the maker of the Patriot missile, which became famous during the Persian Gulf War, agreed to pay $25 million last week to the government over allegations it tried to export sensitive communications equipment to Pakistan. The fine assessed against Raytheon Corp. was among the largest ever.

China and Iran, though not current targets of the war against terror, have emerged in several recent cases, some that began developing in the weeks before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

In Milwaukee, three people and three companies were indicted for trying to export parts for F-4 and F-15 fighter jets and military helicopters destined for Iran, as part of an undercover government sting.

In that case, the government alleges most of the defendants didn't know the parts were meant for Iran but failed to find out where they were headed. "The indictments allege that these companies acted as if they did not care," U.S. Attorney Steven Biskupic said.

Last summer, a man was sentenced to prison in New York for a scheme to smuggle helicopter machine gun parts and other military equipment through Switzerland to Iran, officials said.

Authorities say Iran, which formerly bought military hardware from the United States before the 1979 Islamic revolution, holds many aging American-made fighter jets and missiles systems. It consistently tries to buy U.S. parts secretly to keep the old materiel operational.

And last October, two people in Baltimore were sentenced to prison for conspiring to export to China through Singapore sensitive encryption technology designed to keep material secret even from spymasters.

#2 DJS

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Posted 05 March 2003 - 02:28 AM

Finally we have an Administration who is not turning a blind eye to arms proliferation. Of course there is a profit motive to arms proliferation! It is just like any other black market commodity.

The only logical solution to arms proliferation is cracking down on corruption and increasing the penalities for violations.

#3 Lazarus Long

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Posted 05 March 2003 - 03:21 AM

The only logical solution to arms proliferation is cracking down on corruption and increasing the penalities for violations.

This sure has worked well for five hundred years of drug war.

It is the proven single best method of insuring the highest profits with the least liability for your products. While the profits for contraband drug sales have soared throughout the century of course percentage of per capita consumption hasn't been effected one iota, unless you want to sgrant that it lead to more usage of illegal substances with greater negative social impact for a wider segment of society.

Would you like to explain the connection of the Medici to contraband and the subsequent subversion of Vatican banking to launder Mafia Illegal Profits?

True they only were peripherally involved in weapons, their main income was from drugs, gambling, and prostitution. For weapons we have to look at a different group, a few important transnational groups.

You know whats wrong with your agruments Kissinger, Machiavelli already has made most of them, but he was both more humorous and honest while doing so. He stopped short of moral hypocrasy and accepted his own conclusions as at best, simply pragmatic.

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#4 DJS

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Posted 05 March 2003 - 04:41 AM

You always try to put out such a nuanced response and then go and blow it all by making a comparative statement between arms proliferation and drug war. These are two very different animals. I was simply stating that arms proliferation is a black market. Your further correlation is unwarranted.

It may also surprise you to learn that my beliefs on the war on drugs is not party line.

Finally, how have I been dishonest?

I state my opinion. I post articles to back my position up. You know where I am coming from-- which is more than can be said about you. [ph34r]

You're a Republican? You don't say...

Edited by Kissinger, 05 March 2003 - 04:41 AM.

#5 Lazarus Long

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Posted 05 March 2003 - 04:51 AM

A very different market how?

Many of the same businessmen are involved in both as the underground trade of weapons and drugs demonstrates. This has been true since they were called Privateers and Buccaneers sailing under Compact with various Crowns for Colonial wealth & power.

This is what gave Holland and much of Europe its wealth, along with the third ingredient, slavery. It is as they say history.

#6 Lazarus Long

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Posted 05 March 2003 - 05:02 AM

Oh and in response to the rest, I have posted numerous articles and cited many examples of history that are confrmed from even the most cursory reading of histories.

I have also made numerous rational objections that demonstrate the inherent illogic and shallow historical and factual basis for many of your proposals and when all is said and done you resort to simple denial, hence just dishonest.

Just like the time you claimed at first that we can force them to become democratic. We are doing it for them, no us, no the oil, no the oil is really thiers, so no oil, oh yeah al Qaeda, no its about WMD, no its the immediacy of the threat, which threat? oh the threat we have surrounded and contained not the one beginning to fix us in the cross hairs however.

I have been around these guys closely, I don't tolerate their bul***t why should I just roll over and accept yours?

The dishonesty is that Machiavelli never tried to claim to be ethical he convinced the Medici to simply control the ethical argument by taking over the Papal See.


When you know your position is immoral then make sure you control the voice of morality. But don't expect me to accept this morality if I don't consider it even close to my own. I am at least consistent, the partyline is pabulum.

Analysis isn't about spin, it isn't about opinion, it is about facts and seeing the truth of consequences, not what you wish were the true consequences.

I don't wish bad. I make sure I have my enemy's positions and options mapped clearly before advocating a posture and manuevers. I make honest Risk assesments, not unethical overrides of reason to serve an ideological agenda. I really don't agree with the strategy being proffered and being a Republican doesn't mean I should be quiet about it.

#7 Lazarus Long

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Posted 05 March 2003 - 05:34 AM

By the way did you read the artcle above and notice who was selling? And to who? Those are the people you claim are our allies in the other thread selling to the people that you claim is our enemy.

This is the reality. The single nation that is the worlds largest arms manufacturer and global distributor of ALL categories of weapons BAR NONE, is the United States of America. This for combined public and private sector sales, but individually they are still strong sellers.

The Chinese are looking to catch up in this market, the Russians have been selling reserves and manufacturing much less for a while, and N/Korea is exploiting the few countries and groups we have black listed.

We generally are selling weapons to both sides all the time, and have been for a very long time.

Reality check time but I do have to say I really like you that is why I am doing this, also because I expect in the long run we will find common cause.

#8 DJS

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Posted 05 March 2003 - 06:00 AM

Many of the same businessmen are involved in both as the undergroud traders of weapons and drugs demonstrates.  This has been true since they were called Privateers and Buccaneers sailing under Compact with various Crowns for Colonial wealth & power.

They are different because they have to be dealt with differently. They are different because the threat from proliferation is more dynamic then the threat from illicit drug trade. (I know you could contend that last statement, but I stand firm on this belief).

This is what gave Holland and much of Europe its wealth, along with the third ingredient, slavery.  It is as they say history.

You have once again stepped off the cliff. Are you also for slave reperations? There are statistics which go against your statement. Many historians believe that the system of slavery was more expensive to maintain than the subsequent system of institutionalized discrimination. Further, if you were really a Republican then you would reframe from using such devisive rhetoric which accomplishes nothing.

Making such a statement illustrates, once again, your self hatred of western culture. You always look for the negative aspects of western culture. Nothing the west does is ever good enough for you. This is the reason that conservative talk radio is so dominant. People don't want to hear that they suck or that their nation is evil.

By throwing out so much inuendo you are hoping that something will stick to the wall. And there is an agenda behind all of it. I see your game. By making all of the good guys become "semi-good guys" and the bad guys "semi-bad guys" you blur the lines. Your hope is that eventual the lines between good and evil will be so blurred that moral arguments will be impossible to make one way or the other. And finally, that the concept of nation-states will be so tarnished (and confused) that the very concept will slide into irrelevance. I know your side.

#9 Lazarus Long

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Posted 05 March 2003 - 06:25 AM

I am not arguing for reparations far from it. It was Islamic tribal migrations into central Africa that concentrated on destroying most Native Animistic Africans that then sold most of the slaves to Europeans except in a few instances where outposts coastal forts were established by principally the Portugese and Dutch.

Many historians believe that the system of slavery was more expensive to maintain than the subsequent system of institutionalized discrimination.

But please are you now trying to spin slavery into affirmative action by saying it was really for their own good? And it was actually more expensive to run the operation through total exploitation then simple discrimination? That is nonesense.

Even if from a broad economic perspective I happen to agree that slavery was bad for the TOTAL economy of Europe and the US it was not bad at consolidating power and concentrating wealth in fewer hands to dominate the Age of Colonization and Empire.

Making such a statement illustrates, once again, your self hatred of western culture. You always look for the negative aspects of western culture. Nothing the west does is ever good enough for you. This is the reason that conservative talk radio is so dominant. People don't want to hear that they suck or that their nation is evil.

What people want to hear has not one iota to do with the truth. I just tell it like it is. If you want you to claim to be so virtuous then you had best be ready to cope with the facts about what is claimed. This is why it is called denial in psychology and Orwellian Double Think in politics.

I don't hate the west, I am a westerner (well at least a Yankee). I love my nation in spite of its warts. I simply don't gloss over, excuse, or insist it was alright. Or worse, try to ratinalize it as justifiable then, so maybe it's alright to behave this way again.

You are correct about one thing, to me Western Culture is just one culture, not the supreme culture. Just one among many and also proudly mine. Mine to criticize and mine to propose methods to for betterment, and mine to be responsible to for keeping honest. This is a responsiblity earned with my rights.

#10 DJS

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Posted 05 March 2003 - 06:43 AM

We generally are selling weapons to both sides all the time, and have been for a very long time.

I agree and I think that this dangerous precedent needs to be stopped. I think attitudes on proliferation and arms sales are beginning to change, I hope...

Reality check time but I do have to say I really like you that is why I am doing this, also because I expect in the long run we will find common cause.

As I always say, nothing personal. We have many insights (indicative of the website we give patronage to) that most in this world do not have. What must be really frustrating for you is that neither party represents your view. You are outside of the system watching it (from your perspective) slide off into oblivion. At least I have the satification of seeing my policies implemented.

One of the things you should realize about me is that I am also outside of "the system". I assure you that my vision of the world to come is very different than the President's. I am not marching to the drum beat of the Christian soldier.

Finally I would like to ask you an off topic question that I think you may be able to answer. Have you ever heard some from the Crazy Christian Right say that AIDS was God's vengence on gays? This is an obviously bigoted statement filled with ignorance. The question I have, being a novice in all medical fields, is where do viruses of this kind come from? Where did AIDS come from? It didn't just come out of thin air. How did it originate? I should probably put this on a different thread.

#11 Lazarus Long

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Posted 05 March 2003 - 07:06 AM

Since we are not a CIRA topic I don't mind you asking but I will refer you to the discussion we have had here for an answer to the second part of your question.


Feel free to dissect that one for a while and hunt for another someplace around here too. If you would like to try and tackle it under CIRA guidlines again we could open a different thread up altogether.

As for being on the outside looking in on many issues, you are correct it can get lonesome but I don't think about popularity when I form my opinions, just the facts, the pragmatic options, and my preferred goals. I got banned from many of my PC socialist Madison circles back in the early to mid 80's when I told them it was likely that Reagan might be able to pull off destroying the Soviet Economy. A few people almost hit me.

I wasn't advocating this, I was explaining the socioeconomic theory and why in an Information Age the old style Stalinist doctrine on information would undermine their ability to modernize by producing quantum GIGO in Web Operations and basic Computer Systems and that they were facing serious Islamic internal unrest generated by the Afghanistan campaign they were waging along with the fact that they were investing too heavilly of their GNP in arms in order to maintain the Arms Race and anything like a stabile growing economy. That and saying that neo nazis and clansmen deserved a Right of Free Speech got me virtually banned in some circles. I am used to it.

As a point of reference about political power however, the last election was decided by the 3% Nader vote that defacto elected Bush but in fact chose neither candidate. The minority ruled.

In response to the first question, Of course I have heard fundies say all kinds of weird stuff like that. It is especially common for many people to impart divine vengance on all tragedy. The entire Story of Job is related to this aspect ironically from within Old Testament Biblical Text and to try and dispell such notions.

As most citizens have never bothered to study our Constitution few that claim piety have ever seriously studied their own liturgy and bible. For me studying western religion is no different than studying Greek Mythology or the Mayan Pantheon, I happen to enjoy it, though it doesn't mean that I agree with it.

I have upset many a JW (Jehova's Witness) that tried to sell me the lion laying down with the lamb speech about heaven and I told them that all I could think about that was that it was perverse. I seriously doubt the lamb at least would get much sleep, and why would I want, or expect a lion to become vegetarian, if God made them a pure carnivore?

#12 DJS

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Posted 05 March 2003 - 08:12 AM

Thanks for showing me the AIDS info. I guess there really isn't a conclusive answer to my question. Your "green monkey" theory is interesting and provocative. Are you basically imply that the green monkeys already had AIDS but were not effected by it as humans are? This is a rhetorical question since I think you would say yes.

As for being on the outside looking in on many issues, you are correct it can get lonesome but I don't think about popularity when I form my opinions, just the facts, the pragmatic options, and my preferred goals.  I got banned from many of my PC socialist Madison circles back in the early to mid 80's when I told them it was likely that Reagan might be able to pull off destroying the Soviet Economy.  A few people almost hit me.  

I wasn't advocating this, I was explaining the socioeconomic theory and why in an Information Age the old style Stalinist doctrine on information would undermine their ability to modernize by producing quantum GIGO in Web Operations and basic Computer Systems and that they were facing serious Islamic internal unrest generated by the Afghanistan campaign they were waging along with the fact that they were investing too heavilly of their GNP in arms in order to maintain the Arms Race and anything like a stabile growing economy.  That and saying that neo nazis and clansmen deserved a Right of Free Speech got me virtually banned in some circles. I am used to it.

I do not consider popularity either when formulating my opinions. However, the popularity of a policy determines the extent to which it will be implemented. That is why I am concerned with popularity. I always say that I am conflicted. Well I really am. I do not agree with all of the policies of the Administraton. However, where we differ is in what constitutes a pragmatic approach. You listed pragmatic options as one of the elements you used to determine your policy. How can pragmatic options be found when you operate outside of the system as you do?

It also makes me laugh to imagine you predicting the demise of the Soviet Union to a bunch of socialist groupies lol .

As a point of reference about political power however, the last election was decided by the 3% Nader vote that defacto elected Bush but in fact chose neither candidate.  The minority ruled.

What about the Cuban exile community? The Elian effect? The last election wasn't decided by Nader. Only influenced.

What do you think of Nader and the Green Party? I read his book a while back--"Crashing the Party". It depressed me. For me, the Green Party is just an extension of the Democratic party on the extreme left. Nader says what the Democrats really want to say, but can't because of the political consequences.

As most citizens have never bothered to study our Constitution few that claim piety have ever seriously studied their own liturgy and bible.  For me studying western religion is no different than studying Greek Mythology or the Mayan Pantheon, I happen to enjoy it, though it doesn't mean that I agree with it.

I was raised Catholic. As such, I developed a healthy amount of animosity for all religion during my youth. Another consequence was that I have a pretty thorough knowledge of the bible. I do not enjoy reading the bible however. I view Christianity as a pervasive disease of the mind.

I have upset many a JW (Jehova's Witness) that tried to sell me the lion laying down with the lamb speech about heaven and I told them that all I could think about that was that it was perverse.  I seriously doubt the lamb at least would get much sleep, and why would I want, or expect a lion to become vegetarian, if God made them a pure carnivore?

Funny you mention that. I saw a story on the news a few nights ago where a lioness in Africa had adopted a baby gazelle as its own. The Christian missionaries that were present claimed that it was the lion laying with the lamb. As my mother is fond of saying, "If you look for miracles, you will find them." I remain agnostic.

#13 Lazarus Long

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Posted 07 March 2003 - 05:57 AM

Let's get back on topic.

Article and Links

March 6, 2003

COLUMN ONE Los Angeles Times
A Market in Missiles for Terror
Portable surface-to-air weapons — SAMs — can be had by buyers legal and illegal. They already have been used to attack commercial flights.

By Ken Silverstein and Judy Pasternak, Times Staff Writers

WASHINGTON -- A few weeks ago, a retired American intelligence officer was asked over lunch about the availability on the black market of portable shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles, which government officials fear terrorists might use against civilian airliners.

The retired officer, who now works for a private weapons firm, called his secretary on a cell phone and asked for the phone number of an East European arms broker. He dialed the broker, who picked up after a few rings.

"I have a gentleman seated here with me," the retired officer began after a short greeting. "Give me the price for the 'I' item — current production or a few years old."

After a pause of about 20 seconds, the broker came back on the line. A brief conversation ensued, and the two men said goodbye.

The officer then recounted the relevant details to his luncheon companions, including a reporter. The "I" item was code for state-of-the-art Russian-made portable surface-to-air missiles called Iglas (Needles). The arms broker had offered Iglas for a price of $62,000 apiece.

In some ways, the apparent ease of the transaction might be misleading. The retired officer has been involved in the weapons business for nearly three decades. He's well acquainted with the broker, who knew that the "gentleman" on whose behalf he was negotiating was not a terrorist.

But the conversation was nonetheless reflective of an uncomfortable reality — namely, that portable surface-to-air missiles, known as SAMs, are available to buyers, legal or otherwise, with the funds to pay for them. Indeed, when asked if his broker would entertain an offer from an unsavory client, the retired officer replied that for the right price, "this guy would sell his mother."

The availability of portable SAMs on world markets is a growing concern to government officials. In February, the British government deployed about 450 troops at London's Heathrow Airport after intelligence agencies reported a possible Al Qaeda plan to use portable SAMs against civilian flights.

Three months earlier, suspected Al Qaeda operatives fired two missiles at an Israeli charter flight taking off from Mombasa, Kenya, with 271 people aboard. The missiles, fired just minutes after a suicide car-bomb attack on an Israeli-owned hotel in Mombasa, were 30-year-old Russian Strelas, which are significantly less sophisticated than the Igla. They missed their target.

In May 2002, terrorists fired a Strela at an American plane taking off from the Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia. The Saudis charged seven people alleged to have links with Al Qaeda in the failed attack. The cell had held a second Strela in reserve; authorities found it buried in the desert near Riyadh, the capital.

Civilian Planes Hit

Insurgent groups, which cannot legally buy weapons and must procure them on the black market, have scored numerous successes with portable SAMs during the last few decades. A Defense Intelligence Agency study found reports of 29 portable SAM attacks on civilian aircraft between 1978 and 1998, with more than 400 fatalities. Twenty attacks were in Africa, four in Afghanistan, three elsewhere in Asia and two in Central America.

In a 1998 attack, rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo shot down a Congo Airlines Boeing 727, killing 40 people on board, with what investigators suspected was a Strela. Two and a half months later, a U.N.-chartered flight was shot down over Angola by a portable SAM; 14 people died. In 1994, a portable SAM downed an aircraft carrying the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi, killing both.

"Even before 9/11, we were terrified of the possibility of a SAM attack" on a civilian airliner, said Herbert Calhoun, a senior foreign affairs specialist at the State Department's Bureau of Political-Military Affairs until he retired in November 2001. "We knew there were lots of them out there, and we knew what they're capable of doing."

In the wake of the Mombasa incident, concern in Washington has heightened. Representatives from the Department of Homeland Security, intelligence agencies, the Pentagon's Northern Command and even NORAD, the joint U.S.-Canadian missile-tracking agency, have been meeting several times a month to map out a series of defensive measures. Airport security directors are meeting with their neighbors to explain how to spot suspicious activities, and the task force is weighing the cost and benefits of various countermeasures.

On the international front, the U.S. is pressing allies to develop a global plan, akin to efforts to disrupt terrorist financing, for preventing terrorists from obtaining portable SAMs.

If terrorists did succeed in bringing down a civilian plane far from a war zone, "you'd have to ground everything," said Cathal Flynn, who was chief of civil aviation security for the Federal Aviation Administration until late 2000. "It would kill air travel. It would kill it."

Despite recent attempts to fire SAMs — and Al Qaeda's deadly display of its abilities on Sept. 11 — some analysts say that terrorists are still more likely to opt for simpler methods of inflicting casualties. Even the best portable SAMs can't reach a plane at cruising altitude, which makes passenger jets highly vulnerable only during takeoff and landing. So potential attackers have to set up close to a runway, where they may be spotted. And, after all the cost and preparation, there's a reasonable chance they'll miss, at least with older SAMs, which are prone to malfunction.

"By the time you add up all the things that could go wrong in getting and using SAMs, [terrorists would] rather just buy explosives," said a former senior CIA operations officer.

Still, of the 750,000 portable SAMs manufactured worldwide during the last four decades, several thousand have been diverted from national arsenals, says Daniel Benjamin, who worked at the National Security Council from 1994 to 1999.

Portable SAMs have turned up on black markets from Latin America to the Middle East to the former Soviet bloc.

Sarkis Soghanalian, an Armenian-born Lebanese arms broker who has a long history of covert weapons deals, including some at the request of the CIA, says Ukraine and Yemen are among many places where portable SAMs can be easily purchased.

"Buyers can get whatever they want," Soghanalian said in a recent phone call from the Jordanian capital, Amman. "There are many brokers who are hungry for money, and they can arrange those deals."

In 2000, Italian police burst into a hotel room near Milan and arrested a Ukrainian arms dealer named Leonid Minin. The police say they found in his room — in addition to four naked prostitutes and 58 grams of cocaine — a green briefcase stuffed with documents that showed Minin had helped ship 68 tons of portable SAMs, antitank weapons and rocket-propelled grenades in 1999 from Ukraine to Burkina Faso.

The West African nation, which can legally purchase arms, served merely as a brief transit point. From there, documents show, Minin's private jet carried the weapons to Liberia, which is barred from purchasing arms under a United Nations embargo.

In addition to an assortment of Russian portable SAM models, the French Mistral, the Chinese Red Eye, the British Blowpipe and many others have turned up on the international black market.

$125,000 Price Tag

Prices for some newer models can run as high as $125,000, but older versions cost far less. An international arms merchant provided The Times with a written quote he received in 1996 from Elmet Engineering, a Bulgarian firm. The prices offered by Elmet — which the broker says are still roughly accurate for covert deals — were $7,400 apiece for older Russian-made Strelas, plus $3,400 for a launcher to fire the missiles. The price for a newer-model Strela, which features a bigger warhead and a guidance system greatly improved over the earlier model's, was $22,700 per missile and $9,150 for the launcher.

Elmet is not known to be choosy about its customers. In 1997, U.N. inspectors reported that the company had offered to supply more than $1 million worth of eavesdropping equipment to a Baghdad factory linked to Iraqi intelligence. Recent calls to Elmet seeking comment went unanswered.

One of the most highly sought-after portable SAMs on the black market is the American-made Stinger. Dick Stoltz, an agent for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, posed as a Florida-based weapons broker from 1999 to 2001. He said a middleman for Pakistani intelligence agents placed an order with him for hundreds of Stingers at about $50,000 apiece. The middleman claimed that the Pakistanis wanted Stingers for, among others, Osama bin Laden, Stoltz said. No weapons were delivered, and just three months before Sept. 11, the middleman, a U.S. citizen, was arrested and later pleaded guilty to attempting to export Stingers.

The Stinger's popularity dates to the mid-1980s, when the CIA shipped about 1,000 of the missiles to Afghan rebels fighting a Soviet-backed regime. Soon after their arrival in Afghanistan, the Stingers began leaking out to various parties. Iranian Revolutionary Guards ambushed an Afghan rebel military caravan and made off with several dozen missiles. Pakistani intelligence, which distributed the CIA-supplied arms to the rebels during the war, skimmed a number off the top for its own stockpiles. Pakistan also sold a Stinger to China, which through reverse engineering developed its own version.

Missing Missiles

After the rebels drove the Red Army out of Afghanistan in 1989, hundreds of unused Stingers went missing.

To stem the damage, the CIA began a program to buy back its missing Stingers. By 1993, the agency had allocated $65 million for the program — about twice the cost of the original 1,000 missiles sent to the rebels — but it is said to have had only a few dozen takers.

The Taliban is believed to have inherited many of the Stingers when it seized control of Afghanistan three years later. Iraq and North Korea are also believed to have acquired some of the Stingers, according to a study by Alan J. Kuperman, assistant professor of international relations at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies. Anti-government rebels in Turkey as well as Hezbollah guerrillas operating in Lebanon are also thought to possess the missiles.

Portable SAMs are relatively simple to operate. Manufacturer's literature for Strelas states that the missiles "can be launched from trenches, from positions on water, swampy areas, from the roofs of buildings, from armored vehicles, as well as from vehicles in a stopped position or moving at a speed of up to twenty kilometers per hour."

Even the more sophisticated Stinger does not require extensive training: "The missile's complexity can be accommodated by almost any potential user nation or group," says a U.S. military fact sheet about the Stinger.

Shoulder-launched SAMs are small enough to fit in the back of a truck and relatively easy to smuggle across borders. The Stinger, for example, is 5 feet long and 5.5 inches wide and weighs just 34.5 pounds fully armed.

Deflecting Attacks

Older-model portable SAMs are of little use against military aircraft, which are equipped with means to defeat them. Afghan rebels fired heat-seeking Strelas at Soviet helicopters, but the pilots would simply fire off intensely hot flares and the missiles would chase the flares instead of the helicopter.

But the older heat-seeking models are considered to be highly effective against civilian airliners, which don't carry defenses. A 747 — which has four huge engines — offers a much bigger heat "signature" than almost all military aircraft.

"Even older SAMs are deadly against civilian planes," said Angelo Codevilla, a former senior staff member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. "They are big, fat, slow targets."

Advanced Models

The more advanced portable SAMs, such as American Stingers and Russian Iglas, have longer ranges and use infrared homing systems, which are much more difficult to defeat than heat-seeking missiles.

It would be possible to retrofit commercial planes with countermeasures against SAMs, but that would take a huge amount of time and could easily cost $2 million per plane. Also, some of the technology could present as many problems as solutions. Stored decoy flares, for example, can cause onboard fires, and some experts think jamming equipment might interfere with other necessary transmitters.

Retired Adm. Bobby Ray Inman, a former head of the National Security Agency and deputy CIA director, believes that getting SAMs into the U.S. would be a challenge, but he worries about risks at airports in the Middle East and Africa.

"It's not clear if the [shooters] in Mombasa were incompetent, or if the missiles were defective or the plane was beyond their range, but it's clear that the airport there had little security," he said.

Flynn, the former FAA security official, says that he pushed the Transportation Department during his tenure to come up with a nationwide plan to prevent or respond to an attack but that top officials felt considerably less urgency than he did.

At the time, the intelligence community rated the prospect of a shoulder-fired missile being fired by terrorists in the U.S. as "low to medium." However, twice during the Clinton years, intelligence agencies scrambled when reports suggested that Al Qaeda planned to target overseas flights with portable SAMs. At one point, the government even considered suspending flights by U.S. carriers to two specific locations outside the Americas, says Flynn. In the end, that was deemed unnecessary.

"People went into overdrive to thwart suspects and secure targets," said Benjamin, the former NSC staffer. "We don't know if the measures worked or not because [the attacks] never happened."

More recently, U.S. forces operating in Afghanistan have recovered older-model Strela and Blowpipe SAMs as well as more sophisticated Russian-made models. Al Qaeda training films left behind in Afghanistan provided step-by-step instructions on how to use Strelas.

Franklin C. "Chuck" Spinney, a Pentagon analyst who specializes in tactical aviation, said the portable SAMs on the market and terrorists' recent attempts to obtain and use them are a worrisome combination.

"Sooner or later," he said, "they're probably going to hit a plane."

#14 Lazarus Long

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Posted 08 March 2003 - 07:58 PM

Or are the Issues Fear versus Security?

Welcome to the New Age Arms proliferation and complications. Iran and India have reason to find common cause against both Pakistan and the West. China complicates the issues for them both too but at least other than in a few instances are they acting on these diplomatically and technologically but not taking to the battlefield. Yet....

Torpedo successfully launched
Article & Great Links

New Delhi,Saturday, March 08, 2003: India's indigenously produced torpedo, a lethal weapon to target submarines, was successfully launched today making New Delhi join the elite club of eight countries in the world to have such a capability.

The trial launch of the torpedo was conducted in Vishakapatnam.

Manufactured by Hyderbad-based Public sector undertaking Bharat Dynamics, the production model of the torpedo would undergo further user trials before its bulk production, a company spokesman said.

The trial launch of the weapon assumes significance as it comes in the backdrop of technology denial regime.

"The design of the torpedo involves state of art complex technology areas including hydrodynamics, aerodynamics, structural design, electrical, electronics, electro-chemistry, and software", the spokesman said.

He said the torpedo was developed by scientists of the Naval Science and technological laboratory Vishakapatnam which is headed by Rear Admiral S Mohapatra.
18:24 IST

#15 Lazarus Long

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Posted 03 May 2003 - 01:59 PM

I think this article is so important to the topic that I will copy it here in full.


mailto:katenyt@aol.com?subject=Question for Bill Keller

The Thinkable

In each of the major cities of Pakistan, you can find a strange monument depicting a saw-toothed mountain and a poised missile.

The mountain is a peak in the Chagai Hills, in whose granite depths Pakistan conducted its first nuclear tests five years ago. In the Islamabad version of this tableau, which sits on a traffic island amid a congestion of garishly ornamented trucks, three-wheeled taxis and donkey carts, the mountain is bathed at night in a creepy orange light, as if radioactive. The camouflage-dappled missile is called the Ghauri, and it has a range of about 900 miles. If the chronic tensions along the border between Pakistan and India should ever escalate to a nuclear war, the Ghauri would try to deliver at least one of Pakistan's warheads onto New Delhi. Lest anyone miss the point, the missile was named for a 12th-century Afghan warrior whose most memorable accomplishment was conquering part of India.

A couple of things about these odd shrines are worth considering. The first is the way Pakistan flaunts its nuclear potency in such a proud, even provocative public display. Traditionally most countries that possess nuclear weapons have maintained a discretion about them, befitting their stigma and mystique. Israel has never even publicly acknowledged the existence of its program, nor did the white rulers of South Africa before they quietly decided to dismantle their arsenal in 1989. Pakistan, too, used to be coy about whether it possessed nuclear weapons, but in the past few years the Pakistanis have decided that their weapons are more useful when brandished. Useful, first, in warding off the superior conventional army of India, but useful too as a nationalist proclamation and a beacon to Islamic pride.

A second salient fact about these roadside sculptures is that the Ghauri is, beneath its Pakistani cosmetics, a copy of a North Korean missile called the Nodong. A strong suspicion of American and Indian intelligence services is that Pakistan paid for this missile -- which can deliver a nuclear warhead -- in part by giving North Korea vital tidbits of information about the production and testing of nuclear explosives. Pakistani officials deny this categorically, but not very convincingly in the view of more impartial experts. (The father of the Pakistani bomb, A.Q. Khan, is known to have paid at least 13 visits to North Korea.) If the suspicion is justified, then Pakistan -- which lives at the busiest crossroads of Islamic terror -- is the first nation to have bartered away nuclear weapons technology on the black market.

What Pakistan has unwittingly memorialized is a new nuclear era. A dozen years after the Soviet Union crumbled, nuclear weapons have not receded to the margins of our interest, as many expected. On the contrary, in this second nuclear age, such weapons govern our foreign policy more than they have in decades.

We have been slow to wake up to this new order, but now we are in it with a bang. We just fought a war that began as a drive to disarm one tyrant with nuclear ambitions and to demonstrate America's resolve to others. There are so many ways to think about the war we have just concluded in Iraq that it is easy to overlook this one: it is the most audacious attempt to change the rules of arms control in half a century.

Nuclear proliferation is at the heart of our confrontations with North Korea and Iran, two states for whom the message of Iraq was intended. Proliferation is a persistent irritant in our relations with Russia and China, has contributed to America's official disappointment with the United Nations and is intimately intertwined with the consuming issue of our time, terrorism.

The first nuclear age, which began over Hiroshima, eventually matured into a great standoff between the United States and the Soviet Union. Despite a number of nuclear near misses during that confrontation's first 20 years -- the Berlin showdown, the Cuban missile crisis -- the two rivals slowly brought their fearsome weapons under control and negotiated a protocol for living with them. During the same period, other potential nuclear states were restrained -- by treaties, by the threat of sanctions and other diplomatic pressures, by the superpowers' semi-monopoly on technology and by the fact that weak nations could huddle under the nuclear protection of one bloc or the other. The alliances, Soviet and American, had a strong interest in limiting the number of states with nuclear weapons, and they generally kept things in check. In its way, the cold war worked.

In hindsight, you could say that the closing act of the first nuclear age took place in January 1994, when Ukraine agreed to give up the nuclear weapons it had inherited in the breakup of the Soviet Union. It was the last of the former Soviet states to relinquish its unconventional weapons, and probably the only one with the technological wherewithal to override Moscow's centralized control systems and become an overnight nuclear state. But at that time, possession of nuclear weapons was still understood as a serious impediment for a country seeking admission into the Western world. If you wanted to join the party, you checked your nukes at the door. The first Bush administration and then the Clinton administration bargained hard for the surrender of Ukraine's weapons, promising abundant financial aid and a military partnership that Ukrainians hoped would lead to American security guarantees.

However, an attentive listener back then might have sensed that the old verities were beginning to lose their power. Ukrainian nationalists (including many Ukrainian-Americans) raised a serious clamor for retaining the weapons. Why should Russia, which has a history of throwing its weight around, be a nuclear power and not Ukraine? Who will take us seriously without the Bomb? Some of the diplomats who negotiated the end of Ukraine's nuclear interlude are not so sure that today their appeal would successfully withstand the riptide of nationalism.

The second nuclear age was heralded by a rumble under the Rajasthani desert in 1998, as India's newly elected Hindu nationalist government detonated five test blasts. Two weeks later Pakistan followed suit. India's tests were a declaration of national pride, a sign of anxiety about its rival China and a caution to Pakistan. Pakistan's tests were more simply reciprocal. Announcing them, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif declared proudly, ''Today, we have settled the score.''

Both countries were known to be developing nuclear weapons, but they came out of the closet brazenly. These were nuclear weapons with a regional agenda, unveiled with a populist flourish. And they had a religious subtext -- the Hindu bomb, the Islamic bomb -- that has become more acute as fundamentalists of the two religions gain ground in their respective countries.

India and Pakistan were, by many estimations, the forerunners of a new kind of nuclear power, ahead of the field but hardly alone. Iraq may be solved, but North Korea is regarded as already nuclear. Iran is believed to be moving rapidly toward acquiring nukes. Libya and Syria are watched with suspicion. Experts talk speculatively of the ripple effects -- of a nuclear Iran inspiring nuclear lust in Egypt, Turkey, even Saudi Arabia, of a nuclear North Korea prompting a breakout in Japan, South Korea, even Taiwan.

Long experience without catastrophic mishap has made us, perhaps, a little complacent about nuclear weapons. The Indian and Pakistani tests caused a media frisson and some halfhearted sanctions, but the sense of urgency quickly passed. They were just tests, after all, and half a world away, and everyone knows using nuclear weapons at war is -- the word is on every diplomat's save-get key -- unthinkable.

But each new country that gets nuclear weapons multiplies the potential for a war involving a nuclear state. And numbers are not the worst of it. The original nuclear era was primarily a boxers' clinch of two great industrial powers, each claiming to represent an ideology of global appeal. The second is about insecure nations, most of them led by autocrats, most of them relatively poor, residing in rough neighborhoods, unaligned with and resentful of Western power.

The arsenals of the first nuclear age were governed by elaborate rules and sophisticated technology designed to prevent firing in haste. Some of the newcomers are thought to have far less rigorous command and control, raising fears that the lines of authority could be abandoned in the heat of battle. The newer nuclear states, after all, are dealing with enemies close at hand -- minutes away by missile -- in conflicts that could unfold quickly.

Moreover, there is the danger of third-world weapons or weapons-grade material falling into the hands of terrorists -- the one enemy we know would probably not hesitate to use them. Sympathy for Taliban-style fanaticism thrives in the lower ranks of Pakistan's military, for example. American and Pakistani officials, and experts in rival India, say that Gen. Pervez Musharraf has Pakistan firmly under his control, but nobody imagines that the situation is foolproof. Or that Musharraf will endure forever.

''Then it's not a question of one or two warheads being diverted,'' said a senior administration official. ''It's a question of a couple dozen Islamic bombs.''

Even if a rogue state does not share weapons with terrorists, a nuclear Iran or North Korea or an extremist-led Pakistan could provide sanctuary to terrorists, and the United States might hesitate to pursue killers into a nuclear-armed refuge. Add to this the fear that emotional temperatures can spike when patriotism is tied up with national or religious identity. These are the same passions that have, at their worst, fed outbreaks of genocide, sectarian atrocities and suicide bombing. At the Wagha border crossing, where I left India for Pakistan, soldiers of the two countries stage a ritual every day at dusk. They shoulder rifles, compose their faces in warlike resolve and march straight at one another, stopping only when they are close enough to smell one another's breath. It is purely symbolic, but the symbolism is not abstract. India and Pakistan have fought three wars -- and India has mobilized for war twice in the past 18 months, following terrorist attacks by Kashmiri militants based in Pakistan.

In the first nuclear age, centered on Europe and the cold war, we were on familiar ground. The second, though, is happening across a swath of Asia and is steeped in historic grudges, suppressed national pride and regional ambitions that the West poorly understands, let alone controls.

Henry Sokolski, who was Defense Secretary Dick Cheney's deputy for nonproliferation policy in the first Bush administration, recalls leaving office in 1993 brimming with optimism. Communism was dead. Rampant democracy and rising prosperity would dispel the appetite for these awful weapons. ''We had worked to end nuclear programs in Africa, Argentina, Brazil, Ukraine,'' said Sokolski, who now runs a conservative antiproliferation center. ''It seemed all these countries were drifting away from tyrannical, authoritarian rule, and I thought: There's the formula! It's working!''

The optimists were soon disillusioned, with regard to both the proliferation of democracy and the proliferation of weapons. With the demise of the two big alliances, countries that had existed in the shadows of the superpowers were left to settle their own scores and to see to their own security.

For India, which conducted a nuclear test in 1974 but left the program on idle, the end of the cold war meant a rising profile for China, a longtime antagonist -- and a nuclear power. China, in turn, was helping arm Pakistan. And in this newly disordered world, nuclear weapons were a way to announce that India intended to be a player. ''Whatever Indians say officially, there is a status attached to the bomb,'' said Kanti Bajpai, a political scientist and nuclear critic, when I rode out to see him on the campus of Jawaharlal Nehru University. ''The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council are all nuclear powers.''

For an authoritarian regime with designs on its neighbors -- Iraq, say -- nuclear weapons could prevent the United States from coming to the rescue of allies. ''It is a real equalizer if you're a pissant little country with no hope of matching the U.S. militarily,'' remarked one Bush administration official. ''What if Milosevic had had nuclear weapons during the Kosovo crisis?''

Ahmed Rashid, a Pakistani journalist and author of an international best seller on the Taliban, argues that some autocrats sought nuclear weapons not to protect their countries but to secure their own holds on power.

''In the 90's, it became an issue of regime preservation and survival,'' Rashid said over tea at his home in Lahore. Outside, hired men carrying automatic rifles guarded the driveway, the price Rashid pays for speaking as freely as he does. ''Many of the Muslim states were client states of one bloc or another. Suddenly the props that the ruling elites leaned on are gone.''

These autocrats dared not risk their authority by opening up their societies. Some looked instead to nuclear weapons as a way of demonstrating their own importance to the fate of the nation.

''Yes, Pakistan had the India problem, but one of the big justifications to go nuclear was that somehow going nuclear would free us of any other obligation to our own people,'' Rashid asserted.

Another reason nuclear weapons spread was that they could. In the first nuclear age, the secrets and ingredients of bomb-making were closely held. But the end of the cold war choked off political support for controls on the export of sophisticated technology and made borders more porous. In the second nuclear age, globalization seems to have made nuclear weaponry just another unsavory but probably uncontainable technology, like Internet porn. Poor countries can even finance their nukes by exporting other military material, as North Korea has done.

''Demand creates the market,'' George Tenet, the director of central intelligence, told Congress in February, and ''knowledgeable nonstate purveyors'' are increasingly available to supply it, leapfrogging the tedious pace of old-fashioned nuclear programs. ''The 'domino theory' of the 21st century may well be nuclear,'' Tenet said.

Many critics, especially abroad, say the U.S. has played midwife to the new nuclear age by a lack of vigilance bordering on complicity. We may not be a peddler of nuclear weapons technology or a flouter of international protocols. But we are guilty of hypocrisy, bad example, permissiveness and carelessness. In the world's graduation from the first nuclear age to the second, we have been a great enabler. The United States has tended to look the other way when nuclear offenders happened to be useful allies. This is inarguably the case in Pakistan. We made little effort to shut down Pakistan's nuclear program during the 1980's, when the Pakistanis were valued partners in aiding Afghanistan's insurgency against the Soviet Union. We knew China was selling missiles to Pakistan, but we were also courting China to offset the Soviets.

Although we have leaned recently on President Musharraf to make sure Pakistani nuclear capabilities stay home, we are reluctant to lean too hard, because he is now an indispensable ally against terrorists. ''We are doing pretty much what we did in the 80's,'' conceded an American official who deals with South Asia. ''The exigencies change, but the dilemma is still the same. You need Pakistan for some reasons, and therefore you cut the Pakistanis more slack than is prudent.''

Whether this is bad policy or just playing the hand history deals is a hard question. It is easy to say we should get tough on countries that fail to toe the line on proliferation, but how tough is enough? Do we crack down on Pakistan to the point where we endanger Musharraf, and get a new Taliban in his place?

Some of our nuclear worries have grown because of a simple lack of attention. In 1994, President Clinton signed an agreement to supply North Korea with energy if it stopped reprocessing nuclear fuel into bomb-grade material. The deal averted a showdown, but afterward the Clinton administration -- diverted by other problems and intimidated by Congressional critics who said the deal was a sellout -- let things slide. Now, nine years later, the problem is back to haunt us.

Bush officials love to castigate Clinton, calling his North Korea deal appeasement. In fact, the agreement could have been a successful first step in defusing a North Korean threat, but it became an excuse to kick the problem down the road.

''The United States has trained Iranian engineers at M.I.T., winked at Israel and certainly in the case of North Korea prevaricated and not paid enough attention,'' said Sokolski, the former Defense aide. ''Is it all our fault? No. But no American administration has done enough, not by a long shot.''

he world of people who worry about nuclear weapons for a living is divided into two hostile camps, which sometimes seem more absorbed in fighting each other than in containing the spread of nuclear weaponry. The traditional arms controllers are advocates of treaties, export controls, international agencies and sanctions -- an elaborate regime intended to avert the spread and use of nuclear weapons. They will tell you that arms control has worked, that the handful of countries we worry about as nuclear pretenders is the same handful we worried about 20 years ago. The number of nuclear states has held at eight (the U.S., Britain, France, Russia, China, Israel, India, Pakistan), plus, it is now presumed, North Korea. And several countries (Argentina, Brazil, Taiwan) have backed away. The arms controllers say that what is needed now is to shore up those multilateral disciplines, fortify their enforcement and restore the sense of taboo surrounding these weapons. At the heart of their argument is a conviction that nuclear weapons, per se, are a hazard of a unique kind, and that part of discouraging their spread is a willingness to reduce our own arsenals -- at least to minimal levels, and ideally, in some future verifiable realm, to nothing.

Opposing the arms controllers is a new and ascendant camp, which asserts that the old constraints have broken down. Against the ineffectual diplomacy of traditional arms control, they offer a relatively coldblooded self-interest and confrontation most fulsomely demonstrated by the invasion of Iraq, although the menu of options includes surgical intervention, blockades, economic sanctions and the purely political muscle of public exposure and brutal candor.

In the nuclear world, traditionalists talk about ''nonproliferation.'' The new school prefers the more muscular term ''counterproliferation,'' which refers to a subset of activities involving the military. It should not surprise you to learn that under President Bush, the White House office responsible for these issues has renamed itself to incorporate the word ''counterproliferation.'' Iraq was the first ''counterproliferation'' war.

There are serious tactical differences within the administration about how thoroughly to purge the legacy of old-fashioned arms control. But the senior policy makers in the area of arms control -- at the Pentagon, the State Department and the White House -- are pretty uniformly of the diplomacy-has-failed school. The principal players, like Under Secretary John Bolton at State, Under Secretary Douglas Feith and Assistant Secretary J.D. Crouch at Defense and Robert Joseph, who runs the nuclear franchise at the National Security Council, have voluminous records as fierce critics of the arms-control gospel from their days on the outside.

The counterproliferationists put little faith in treaties. Last year they successfully discarded the Antiballistic Missile Treaty, which prohibited weapons to shoot down incoming missiles for fear that this kind of defense would ignite a new arms race. The White House has sworn that the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which would do what its name suggests, will never be ratified. As for the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which entered into force in 1970 and is supposed to limit the spread of nuclear technology and material, the administration accepts it as a bequest from the past but regards it as pointless. Only those who find it in their interest to obey will do so, Bush officials say, and the rest will cheat.

To the counterproliferators, the main problem is not nuclear weapons; it is bad regimes armed with nuclear weapons. Treaties and test bans, they say, limit the behavior of only the kinds of law-abiding people who obey treaties -- people like us. Thus the administration opposes any treaties that might inhibit us from developing new additions to our nuclear arsenal. And counterproliferators insist on our right to explore new species of nuclear weaponry, like precision-guided bunker-busters to cope with defenders who have buried their defenses under thick layers of concrete.

The logic at times resembles the tautology of an N.R.A. bumper sticker: If nukes are outlawed, only outlaws will have nukes. The Bush policy is to worry about the outlaws rather than the nukes

In the world of nuclear affairs, they are the party of new ideas. The first was missile defense, reviving the Reagan-era scheme to intercept incoming ballistic missiles carrying nuclear warheads by using killer rockets, lasers and other devices. Since abandoning the A.B.M. treaty last year, the administration has raced to deploy the first antimissile batteries, even before demonstrating that they are reliable. Missile defenses are generally presented as the answer to a rogue nuke from a regime like North Korea or a missile obtained by terrorists. But their actual purpose is more complicated. What missile defenses are supposed to do is give America greater freedom of action as it goes about the missions it sets for itself -- protecting allies, for example, or disarming new threats. In theory, missile defense means a thug with a nuke cannot hold us at bay.

Since the administration pushed forward with deploying the shield, other countries have begun approaching us to help them introduce missile defenses against nuclear neighbors. Officials in Japan, rattled by North Korea's nuclear threat, have accelerated talks with the U.S. about installing missile defenses. India, too, has proposed that America help it obtain antimissile batteries -- either Israel's Arrow or the American Patriot. The Defense Department has supported this proposal, seeing India as a counter to the long-range threat of China. The State Department is reluctant, worrying that it will provoke Pakistan into a nuclear arms race or a domestic upheaval.

The second new idea on the Bush agenda is the one we have just witnessed, a greater willingness to use force either to pre-empt a threat before it becomes imminent or to reinforce a new, coercive diplomacy. Arms controllers tend to regard counterproliferators as unilateralists, carelessly provocative in their speech and quick to reach for a gun. Counterproliferators, in turn, paint traditional arms controllers as idealists and wishful thinkers. Neither side is entirely wrong.

In February, Mohamed ElBaradei, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, paid a visit to Iran. His trip attracted little attention in a world absorbed by the search for illicit weapons in Iraq, and his subsequent public statements were characteristically bland. He did not accuse the Iranians of anything. But what drew him there was powerful evidence for the counterproliferators' complaint that arms control is not working.

The essential bargain that induced nonnuclear states to sign the Nonproliferation Treaty was this: If you pledge to refrain from arming yourself with bad atoms, you will be rewarded with a supply of good atoms -- a peaceful nuclear energy program. Inspectors from the I.A.E.A. will drop by occasionally to make sure you stay within bounds -- that the nuclear fuel for generating electricity is all properly booked and sufficiently diluted. (The most difficult ingredient for a bomb maker to come by is not the design or the engineering; it is uranium or plutonium, distilled to a weapons-grade concentration.)

Under these ostensible safeguards, the Russians sold Iran a 1,000-megawatt nuclear reactor and helped install it in Bushehr. The Russians agreed to supply the nuclear fuel for the entire life of the reactor and to cart away the used fuel so it could not be reprocessed into something dangerous.

So ElBaradei must have felt some chagrin when, on Feb. 9, Iran's president, Mohammad Khatami, disclosed that Iran had a little something going on the side. While the world was preoccupied next door with Iraq, Khatami offhandedly divulged that Iran had secretly begun building two plants for enriching uranium. After his visit, ElBaradei said that one plant was nearly ready for operation and that a much larger one was under construction.

The Bush administration is convinced that Iran has exploited the peaceful auspices of the Nonproliferation Treaty to shinny up the pole toward a nuclear-weapons program. Khatami's disclosure -- although accompanied by the ritual promises of purely civilian intentions -- is about as close to a confession as critics could want. It seems to confirm not only that the system can be circumvented, but also that the system actually gives would-be violators a leg up.

One American official told me that if the Iranians run the Bushehr reactor for five or six years, withdraw from the nonproliferation treaty (as North Korea just did) and route all their radioactive material through a reprocessing plant, they would end up with enough radioactive material to build something like 100 nuclear weapons. And this is not a problem that would necessarily be solved by regime change. In Iran, which lives in a hostile neighborhood and retains more than a little Persian pride, the reformers seem just as dedicated to a nuclear future as the mullahs.

The administration's solution, so far, is to lean hard on the Russians (as President Clinton also did, to little effect). The Bush officials hope the new disclosures will finally embarrass the Russians into clamping down. They also hope the Iranians and their sponsors will take the overthrow of Saddam Hussein as fair warning.

''I think the presence of 200,000 American troops on their border for X period of time may tend to concentrate their attention,'' observed a senior American official.

The ElBaradei visit also illustrates a second congenital flaw in the nonproliferation regime: enforcement depends almost completely on the cooperation of the suspects. The International Atomic Energy Agency, created at the United Nations in the 1950's to manage the distribution of nuclear materials, was born toothless. President Eisenhower wanted the agency to retain strict control of material and conduct intrusive inspections. The Soviet Union, India and France wouldn't hear of it. ElBaradei's minions cannot pop a surprise inspection. They go where they can persuade the inspected countries to let them go.

ElBaradei, upon learning that Iran had a parallel nuclear processing program growing in secrecy, could do little more than plead with the culprit for additional inspection authority that would ''enable us to provide more comprehensive assurances'' that Iran's program is just intended to produce electricity. Iran promised to think about it.

Another way in which the nonproliferation rules work against their professed intentions is illustrated by Pakistan. Like India and Israel, Pakistan is an outlier, a nuclear country that never signed the treaty. The five nuclear powers that signed are obliged to have no hand in the nuclear programs of these outsiders, lest we confer legitimacy.

But the biggest fear in Pakistan is not that its program might be legitimized. It is that Pakistan's nuclear weapons may be vulnerable -- to precipitous use in a conflict or to acquisition by terrorists.

Thus it might be a good idea for the U.S., which has abundant experience helping Russia lock up its nuclear material against diversion, to help Pakistan do the same. But the treaty forbids even this benign form of cooperation.

Despite the treaty, one U.S. official who deals with South Asia told me, the administration has offered to help Pakistan impose more sophisticated controls on its nuclear program, like ''physical safeguards'' to lock down sites where fissile materials are kept.

''We've entered a dialogue,'' the official said. ''We'll figure out how we come to terms with our conscience later.''

Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba's office in the headquarters of the Japanese Defense Agency is furnished with dozens of meticulous replicas of Japanese warplanes and battleships displayed in glass cases. Although Japan technically does not have an army, a navy or an air force, this is scale-model testimony to the fact that it actually has one of the world's largest military budgets. Thanks to the nuclear tantrums of North Korea, Ishiba's collection is likely to grow.

Could it grow to include Japanese nuclear weapons?

Even to suggest such a thing causes media hyperventilation in Japan, the only country to have had its citizens incinerated by nuclear weapons. The nuclear taboo is backed by strong public opinion. North Korea's flamboyant withdrawal from the nonproliferation treaty, however, raised the prospect of a hostile and unstable regime holding nuclear warheads just an eight-minute ballistic-missile flight from Tokyo. And some Americans in the neoconservative choir that accompanies the Bush administration have been advocating a nuclear Japan as a countermove to North Korea.

When I visited Tokyo in March, to see if I could glimpse a nation with the first inkling of an urge to get in the nuclear game, the defense minister and everyone else I talked to, including the most hard-line nationalists, said it is not about to happen. Even Shingo Nishimura, a staunch parliamentary militarist who was described to me as ''the Richard Perle of Japan'' (he was once fired from the cabinet for lamenting Japan's nuclear impotence), said he does not favor Japan producing nuclear weapons. What he advocates is the United States stationing a battery of intermediate-range nuclear missiles in Japan, under American control, and even that is viewed as a fringe opinion.

But not all the ripple effects of nuclear proliferation are nuclear. The convulsions over North Korea have given a serious boost to the idea of Japan collaborating in the American missile defense system. That standoff has also prompted a discussion of whether Japan might even need the ability to ''pre-empt'' a North Korean attack.

Shortly before I visited Ishiba in March, he suggested that if the North Koreans seemed poised to attack Japan, Japan would have the right to launch a pre-emptive attack. This set off a very Japanese cycle of hand-wringing. What did he mean by that? Would it violate Japan's Constitution, which takes ''defense'' extremely literally? Did it reflect doubts about America's commitment to defend the islands?

Between draws on a smoke-ender nicotine inhaler, Ishiba explained to me that, alas, Japan does not have the ability to pre-empt anything. Its F-15 fighters cannot make it to North Korea and back without refueling, and Japan has no refueling planes. Nor does it have the precision-guided weapons to take out enemy silos once they got there.

''There are some Japanese who are surprised that while spending the world's second-largest military budget, Japan still does not have any capability of that kind,'' Ishiba lamented. You can expect to see refueling planes and precision munitions on Japan's next defense shopping list.

The defense minister said that if he had the requisite hardware, he could conceive of striking North Korea only in response to an imminent threat -- if, as he put it, North Korea vowed to turn Tokyo into a ''sea of fire'' and then began fueling its missiles. But by then it would probably be too late to do anything about it.

It was hard to tell whether this pre-emption talk was a tentative step toward a more assertive Japan or a devoted client's nod to the Bush doctrine or simply a shrewd politician grabbing a chance to expand his budget. Maybe all three.

The idea of nuclear pre-emption did not begin with the Iraq war. Robert Litwak, director of international studies at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, has found five earlier instances when states seriously considered using military force to prevent the spread of unconventional weapons. President Kennedy contemplated a preemptive strike on China's nuclear facilities before its first test explosion in 1964, but decided America could cope with a nuclear China. Israel in 1981 bombed Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor, enduring much criticism but setting back Saddam's nuclear program significantly. The 1991 gulf war plan targeted Iraq's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs, although it was a secondary motive for the war. President Clinton thought hard about taking out North Korea's nuclear facilities in 1994, but instead managed to negotiate his way out of what advisers feared would be a new Korean war. And U.S. cruise missiles destroyed a pharmaceutical plant in Sudan in 1998, ostensibly linked to production of nerve gas -- a claim that has been disputed.

Litwak told me he intended his research, published in the winter issue of the quarterly Survival, as ''an antidote to both right-wing triumphalism and left-wing hysteria about pre-emption. The bottom line is, it is an instrument of policy, but not a silver bullet. ''

That is exactly the reality the Bush administration has run into in North Korea. While the Pentagon has a contingency plan to bomb the country's nuclear facilities, and it could become a serious option, a senior official told me, ''Nobody's really seriously arguing that within the administration -- that we should do it soon, anyway.'' The North Korean leader may just be crazy enough to respond by raining artillery shells on the metropolis of Seoul, or lobbing a missile at Japan.

So, what does a counterproliferation strategy for North Korea look like? I asked two Bush officials, both senior enough to have a say in what the administration ultimately decides. The first official argued that the best way to deal with North Korea is to encircle it, cut off all aid and wait for Kim Jong Il to fall. Buying his disarmament with food and oil, even if Kim was willing to bargain, would just perpetuate the regime and would be ''morally repugnant,'' he said. And the administration is pretty sure Kim will not bargain away such a powerful weapon.

''If we could have containment that's tailored to the conditions of North Korea, and not continue to throw it lifelines like we have in the past, I think it goes away,'' said this official. ''It's a bankrupt economy. I can't imagine that the regime has any popular support. How long it takes, I don't know. It could take two years.''

And what is North Korea doing during that time?

''I think it'll crank out, you know, half a dozen weapons a year or more. We lived with a Soviet Union that had tens of thousands of nuclear weapons, including thousands of them pointed at us. We just have to cope.''

I recounted this fatalistic view to officials in Asia and to American experts, and most were horrified. As they pointed out, it has some rather serious holes. First, North Korea, unlike the Soviet Union, will sell anything to anybody for the right price. Second, a collapsing North Korea with nukes may not be as pretty a picture as my official informant anticipates. Third, if this collapse means a merger of the peninsula into a single, unified Korea -- that is, if South Korea becomes a de facto nuclear power -- that will bring little joy to Japan or China. The second American official I spoke to agreed with his colleague that the Bush policy should include economic sanctions, and that a failure of the regime would be a desirable goal. But he was uneasy with the idea of letting North Korea's nuclear arsenal grow until the day of collapse. Before that would be tolerated, the administration would take a closer look at a military strike. ''The only acceptable end state,'' he said, is ''everything out.''

Toleration of a nuclear North Korea, he said, would send a message to the Iranians and others: ''Get your nuclear weapons quickly, before the Americans do to you what they've done to Iraq, because North Korea shows once you get the weapons, you're immune.''

I asked this official whether he would favor letting nuclear weapons fall into the hands of friendly countries in Asia. After all, say some of the most ardent hawks, there are no bad weapons, just bad regimes. Some say this would produce a grand strategic result: China, which they see as America's most likely threat in the long run, encircled by nuclear-armed allies of America. We could even bring home our troops and let our friends police the region.

The official weighed his answer for a minute. ''I notice a lot of my friends are saying, By God, give them to the Japanese, give them to Taiwan,'' he said. ''I'd rather not. My ideal number of nuclear-weapons states is one.''

Within the Bush administration, that official's comments represent the sober (and, at least for now, prevailing) view. We want nukes out of the hands of bad guys, and we are not yet proposing to give nukes to good guys. To critics, though, including much of the world abroad, that last sentence also reflects a frightening arrogance. My ideal number of nuclear-weapons states is one. Why is the ideal number not zero?

Nuclear weapons have always been more about psychology than about war. The power consists in having them, not in using them. A sense of awe, mingled with something like shame, characterized the first nuclear era. Previous American presidents at least paid lip service to the ultimate dream of a nuclear-free world -- and some, notably Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, seem to have genuinely believed in it.

The stigma attached to nuclear weapons had real power. Kenneth Watman, chairman of the war-gaming department at the Naval War College, told me that throughout the cold war he observed or read about innumerable simulations of crises between NATO and the Warsaw Pact. In almost every case, the actors portraying the decision makers balked at using their nuclear weapons. Even in a game, even with their backs to the wall, even players who were foaming at the mouth held back, Watman said. ''It's the pure lunacy of it. The disproportion between ends and means.''

Watman says he believes this important psychological threshold has lowered since the Indian and Pakistani tests in 1998, when the rest of the world could not muster a strong response. Some say the Bush administration is further eroding the sense of taboo by advertising its Home Depot of new nuclear gadgets, by scorning treaties aimed at preventing bigger and more modern nuclear arsenals, by insisting on the right to test, by dreaming aloud of an American monopoly.

''In the cold war, they were viewed as weapons of last resort,'' said Pervez Hoodbhoy, a Pakistani nuclear scientist who is one of his country's most articulate disarmament advocates. ''Now they are viewed as a means to fight wars. This is the final nail in the coffin of a nuclear-free world. What kind of message is that sending to the rest of the world?''

This is not the view of traditionalists alone. Henry Sokolski, a critic of the way the Nonproliferation Treaty has been implemented and a supporter of President Bush, says the cavalier attitude of some in the administration on testing, new battlefield nukes and international agreements is dangerous. Sokolski argues that nuclear weapons are like the slave trade -- an evil that transcends the sovereign rights of states, and one that should be battled by all means. Several Bush hawks have picked up the slave-trade analogy and used it to argue, for instance, that we have a right to intercept weapons traffic on the high seas. But Sokolski says some that administration officials miss the point. As long as the U.S. exempts itself from the opprobrium bestowed on nuclear weapons, it will lack the moral authority to bring the rest of the world along.

''Ultimately, like slavery, you have to be willing to argue against it wherever it is -- including getting away from our own reliance on it,'' he said.

Paul Bracken, a Yale political scientist who set out to define the second nuclear age in a prescient book published four years ago, ''Fire in the East,'' began as a scholar of military strategy, but got bored with the subject and added a second career as an expert in global corporate strategy. He still teaches political science at the Yale School of Management, and when I called him at his campus office not long ago, he sounded exasperated at the polarization of the debate over nuclear proliferation. He agrees with the Bush hawks that the old arms-control regime has become increasingly irrelevant, and he regards the war in Iraq as ''the most important arms control action in 50 years.'' Yet he agrees with the traditionalists that the administration hawks fail to understand the dangers of overheated rhetoric and the real value in arms-control diplomacy. Neither side, he says, seems able to climb up from its ideological trench.

''We had a nonproliferation regime that worked into the 90's, and then failed,'' Bracken said. ''How many other government programs can you point to that worked for 25 years? If I can find a new arms control that works for 25 years, and then fails, I will break open the Champagne.''

What might a new arms-control regime look like?

In the first nuclear age, the Americans and the Soviets studied each other intensely, negotiated constantly and over time learned to communicate their intentions clearly. The new players are more mysterious to us, and the administration sometimes seems more inclined to moralize about them than to study them and their motives for seeking to go nuclear. We know little, for example, about how North Korea's leader thinks, and even Iran -- which is both more accessible and more complicated than North Korea -- is regarded in some parts of Washington as a cartoon evil.

A new arms-control regime might begin by assessing the motives that tempt states to go nuclear, and then figuring out how to remove the temptation. It would necessarily be more engaged, less smug and more versatile. Some potential nuclear states might be amenable to swapping their weapons programs for a chance at prosperity. Some might respond to assurances that they will not be attacked, backed up by security guarantees or new alliances the U.S. would foster. Arms controllers are mostly dogmatic in their rejection of missile defenses, but it's worth studying whether missile defense -- which may or may not ever be useful to protect America from a nuclear attack -- could be useful in some regions to persuade potential nuclear states that they can live without these weapons.

Some countries could lose interest in nuclear weapons if we played a more active role in defusing the regional grievances that keep them on edge -- notably the border dispute between India and Pakistan, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A few will prove incorrigible, at which point we choose between containment and forcible disarmament.

The administration is clearly right that a new arms control cannot rest entirely on the illusory safety of talks and treaties and U.N. resolutions. The autocrats most likely to be dangerous to us if they get nuclear weapons are the leaders least likely to care about staying in the good graces of the ''international community,'' whatever that is. A new arms-control regime should distinguish among threats and offer a menu of options appropriate to the danger, from inspection to coercion. It would draw on military pressure and economic sanctions, along with the softer diplomacy that the counterproliferators scorn. It would not disdain international agreements but would demand smarter treaties, backed by intrusive inspections and rigorous enforcement.

And it would accept the solemn responsibility -- a particularly American responsibility -- to restore the special stigma of nuclear explosives. The destructive power of these weapons is unique and breathtaking, and almost impossible to confine to military targets. Chemical and biological weapons, horrible as they are, cannot match them as agents of catastrophe. A strategy that focuses exclusively on regimes and not on weapons themselves has several flaws, and the most obvious one is this: when regimes change, weapons remain.

Bill Keller is a Times columnist and a senior writer for the magazine.

#16 Lazarus Long

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Posted 13 July 2003 - 01:51 PM

When the "other side" accuses us of being the cause of global weapons proliferation I suggest you not dismiss it so lightly. There is a lot of evidence to support the fact that the United States is moving to transfer nuclear weaponry to nations that we "deem" acceptable to our purpose.

Here is an example from today's news:
Nuclear weapons 'option' for Australia
By Gerard McManus
July 13, 2003

AUSTRALIA is giving itself the option of becoming a nuclear power through a deal with the US to obtain nuclear weapons and extensive investment in atomic expertise, it has been claimed.

Posted Image
Options: Lucas Heights reactor, and nuclear detonation

A leading strategic policy expert says Australia is forging an understanding with the US that would ensure quick access to "off the shelf" tactical nuclear weapons during a crisis.

And a former senior Howard Government science adviser says the new $600 million reactor at Lucas Heights will ensure Australia has the skills and technology to launch a nuclear weapons program.

"There is no doubt in my mind that a main purpose of Lucas Heights is to maintain Australia's capacity to develop nuclear weapons," the former adviser said this week.

"It is Australia's insurance policy against the future, just in case the US does not come to our aid. We are way more advanced in nuclear technology than Saddam Hussein ever was."

The claims come as it has been reported North Korea has begun reprocessing spent nuclear fuel rods - a program that could yield enough plutonium for six nuclear warheads within months.

And the rogue state has been accused by South Korea of conducting 70 high-explosive tests linked to nuclear weapons production.

This month the Federal Government compulsorily acquired 6sq km of a sheep station at Arcoona, 20km north east of Woomera, for a proposed nuclear waste dump.

Strategic policy expert Associate Professor Wayne Reynolds, of Newcastle University, says the new reactor is one arm of a dual nuclear-based defence strategy.

The other involves reaching an agreement with the US that Australia could buy small tactical nuclear weapons in the event of a regional nuclear crisis.

"During the Cold War, the US seemed to see the world in terms of containment, and Australia's role was really as a back-up base," Professor Reynolds said. "But since the Cold War ended, our role has been enhanced. The US will clearly have to beef up their own arrangements in South-East Asia now.

"Australia has always been very keen to keep in touch with US military planning and get as much access to modern weapons as possible.

"The military alliance has built up to such an extent that, when it came to the Iraq War, there was simply no political option other than to work with the US.

"If the US made tactical nuclear weapons available to us, I don't think we would be hindered by the Non-Proliferation Treaty."

Professor Reynolds described Australia as being a "near-nuclear weapons state" and potentially only two years away from producing nuclear weapons.

"What all the near-nuclear weapons states have in common is the capacity to make them, while not actually doing it," Professor Reynolds said. "We have the scientists and engineers."

The former science adviser spoke out despite fears he might be prosecuted and that his business might suffer.

He said senior government officials had told him of plans to preserve nuclear expertise through the building of the new reactor for the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation.

"The new reactor they are building is very large for the purposes they claim it will be used for," he said. "To fulfil its medical functions, the reactor would only need to be a fifth to a tenth of the size of the one they are building.

"Just about all the critical infrastructure and expertise is also there. They now have a reservoir of people, from materials handling to explosives experts to reactor physicists and electronics engineers.

"The Government will deny this on Sunday morning, but there's no doubt in my mind," he said.

While ANSTO says it has no active program to build a bomb, Australian scientists at Lucas Heights conduct research into other countries' bomb designs.

"The expertise is being maintained, they would not be building something like this if they did not have a long-term view of being able to design their own bomb," the adviser said.

A spokeswoman for the Federal Government said the claims were "absurd".

"Australia is a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and has made a legal commitment to not acquire nuclear weapons, and this is enshrined in legislation," spokeswoman Willie Herron said.

Preliminary work has started on the new reactor, estimated in 1999 to cost $268 million, but set to cost as much as $600 million before it is completed.

ANSTO says the new reactor, the Replacement Research Reactor, is a 20 megawatt pool reactor using low-enriched uranium fuel cooled by water. It will be a multi-purpose facility for radioisotope production, irradiation services and neutron beam research.

Additional reporting by Laurie Nowell and Chris Tinkler.

Sunday Herald Sun

#17 Lazarus Long

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Posted 13 July 2003 - 01:56 PM

US to give missiles to Taiwan
From correspondents in Taipei
July 13, 2003

THE US will deliver 200 advanced air-to-air missiles to Taiwan after it had held them in a US air base for three years to avoid upsetting China, a news report said today.

When it agreed to sell the AIM-120C advanced medium range air-to-air missiles to Taiwan in 2000, Washington decided to hold the weapons in the United States to avoid giving the island air supremacy over China or provoking Beijing into accelerating its pursuit of a similar capability.

Washington recently agreed to turn over the missiles because the Chinese air force has acquired advanced fighter jets and successfully test-fired Russian-built AA-12 air-to-air missiles, posing a greater threat to Taiwan, the semiofficial Central News Agency said.

The AIM-120C missiles, to be carried by US-built F-16 fighter jets, will be shipped to Taiwan in a month or two from the US air base in Guam, the agency quoted unidentified Taiwanese military officials as saying.

Defence Ministry officials could not be immediately reached for comment.

#18 Lazarus Long

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Posted 04 August 2003 - 06:42 PM

Facing a Second Nuclear Age
Sun Aug 3, 2:55 PM ET - The New York Times

By WILLIAM J. BROAD The New York Times

This week, ten minutes by car south of Omaha, Neb., the United States Strategic Command is holding a little-advertised meeting at which the Bush administration is to solidify its plans for acquiring a new generation of nuclear arms. Topping the wish list are weapons meant to penetrate deep into the earth to destroy enemy bunkers. The Pentagon (news - web sites) believes that more than 70 nations, big and small, now have some 1,400 underground command posts and sites for ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction.

Determined to fight fire with fire, the Defense Department wants bomb makers to develop a class of relatively small nuclear arms ranging from a fraction the size of the Hiroshima bomb to several times as large that could pierce rock and reinforced concrete and turn strongholds into radioactive dust.

"With an effective earth penetrator, many buried targets could be attacked," the administration said in its Nuclear Posture Review, which it sent to Congress last year.

Welcome to the second nuclear age and the Bush administration's quiet responses to the age's perceived dangers.

While initiatives like pre-emptive war have gotten most of the headlines (understandably, given the invasion of Iraq (news - web sites) and its shaky aftermath), the administration is hard at work on other ways to counteract the spread of weapons like nuclear arms. Federal and private experts agree that with the notable exception of North Korea (news - web sites), diplomacy and arms control, for now, have taken a back seat to muscle flexing.

For instance, as part of its missile defense program, on which nearly $8 billion is being spent this year, the administration is erecting a rudimentary system of ground-based interceptors in Alaska and California. By late next year, 10 interceptors are supposed to be ready to zap any warheads that North Korea might lob at the United States. Whether the system would work as advertised is open to doubt. But, then, so is whether North Korea could or would ever directly attack the United States.

Skeptics are more likely to think that North Korea has nuclear blackmail in mind, and that what the White House really is doing is an election-year bit of showing its determination, even as it moves toward negotiating with Pyongyang. Late last week, there were even signs that the North Koreans were beginning to consider a principal American demand that they accede to talks not with the United States alone, but including other powers like China, Russia and Japan.

Still, while critics may berate the administration's plans and responses, the long-term dangers are considered real. Most alarming are the declared effort by North Korea to build a nuclear arsenal and a presumed effort by Iran. Experts talk of wide repercussions of an atomic Iran inspiring nuclear ambitions in other Middle Eastern countries, and of North Korea prompting rapid proliferation in the Far East.

Japan is considered a likely flash point, despite its historic disdain for things nuclear after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Nisohachi Hyodo, once seen as part of the lunatic fringe for promoting a plan by which Japan would quickly acquire nuclear arms, now has his own radio program on a major Tokyo station and is a popular speaker on college campuses.

And if Japan went nuclear, experts say, China might feel compelled to expand its own arsenal.

Paul Bracken, a Yale political scientist who described the second nuclear age in "Fire in the East" (HarperCollins, 1999), argued that the danger lies not just in the spread of nuclear arms but in the culture of the second age. He said most of the new powers are poor, unlike their atomic predecessors. Thus, India, Pakistan and North Korea are cannibalizing their conventional forces to finance their atomic and missile ambitions. In a crisis, he said, the military repercussions of that trend could erode the traditional restraints on nuclear arms. Pakistan, he said, "will be forced to use them earlier."

Perhaps least-known of the administration's responses to the second age is its effort to fight arms of mass destruction with arms of mass destruction. Advocates say that relatively small nuclear weapons that burrowed deep into the ground to destroy enemy bunkers would cause reduced collateral damage that is, less accidental destruction beyond the intended target.

"These kinds of capabilities could contribute to our ability to prevent attacks by deterring them," said Keith B. Payne, who from April 2002 to this May argued for the new arms as deputy assistant secretary of defense for forces policy. "If an opponent thinks he has a sanctuary, he could be emboldened to aggression."

Dr. Payne, who plans to be at the Omaha meeting, is now president of the National Institute for Public Policy, a Washington research group. He added that the new arms might dissuade an enemy from ever building deep bunkers. "It's not worth the investment," he said.

Critics hate the proposed arms, fearing that their relative smallness will breech the firewall between conventional and nuclear war and pose a new threat to world security. They also question whether radioactive fallout can be contained and denounce the project's overall secrecy.

"We worked hard to get civilian control over nuclear arms," said Greg Mello, director of the Los Alamos Study Group, a private organization in Albuquerque that monitors arms labs. "Even though nuclear weapons are inimical to the democratic spirit, the idea of these being made by a small minority is especially dangerous."

Dr. Payne challenged the idea that small weapons would lower the bar for nuclear war, saying America had deployed very small atomic arms in the past. "There's no evidence I've seen," he said, "that these made any U.S. president anything other than very reluctant to think about the use of nuclear weapons."

If the arms are ever built, critics say, the biggest hurdle to bunker busting may be targeting. Atomic intelligence is notoriously crude, as the failed weapons hunt in Iraq suggests. Recently, America's spies have also had trouble tracking nuclear arms production in Iran and in North Korea, which has a maze of secret sites and buried bunkers.

Congress, too, is uneasy about the new weapons, which are still in the research stage. Last month, a House appropriations subcommittee cut back on the administration's 2004 budget request for the arms, citing organizational disarray among the nation's bomb makers and calling "pursuit of a broad range of new initiatives premature."

Robert S. Norris of the Natural Resources Defense Council, a private group in Washington that monitors nuclear trends, said the rebuff from the Republican-led House was surprising. "But they may buy it," he added, "if the administration comes up with a clearer plan."

That tops the agenda this Wednesday and Thursday at Offutt Air Force Base south of Omaha. Air Force Maj. Michael Shavers, a Pentagon spokesman, said the meeting will involve some 150 people from weapons labs, the Defense and State Departments, the Energy Department, its National Nuclear Security Administration and the White House.

The United States Strategic Command, the host, controls the nation's deployed nuclear arms and writes the war plans for their use.

Eager to shed light on the secretive meeting, peace advocates organized a descent on Omaha this weekend to protest the new arms with educational workshops, a rally, a commemoration of the Japanese bombings, a peace concert and a vigil.

Dr. Bracken, the Yale political scientist, said the administration has a historic opportunity, of the Nixon-in-China variety, to pioneer a new kind of arms control that actually lowers the risk of war.

For instance, he said, the United States could renounce the first use of nuclear arms. He said that step would help counteract the current downward spiral toward a lower nuclear threshold. "In the cold war you needed to retain that," he said of the threat to use nuclear arms first. "But today, with more players in the game, there's a lot to be gained by giving it up."

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