Category Archives: Nuclear weapons

Panetta vs. the Intelligence Community?

(Hat tip to Eric H) CIA Director nominee Leon Panetta, the self-described “creature of congress,” appears to have brushed aside the collective findings of the intelligence community regarding Iran’s nuclear weapons program. At his Senate confirmation hearings yesterday, fellow democrat, Senator Evan Bayh asked: “Is it your belief that Iran is seeking a nuclear military capability? Or are their interests solely limited to the civilian sphere?”
Panetta then replied, “From all the information that I’ve seen, I think there is no question that they are seeking that capability.”
By contrast, the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate on Iran, issuing the collective view of 16 different US intelligence agencies, found that,

“We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program…. We assess with moderate confidence Tehran had not restarted its nuclear weapons program as of mid-2007.”

For all of the problems of the intelligence community, a veteran insider wisely warned me 20 years ago that, “the worst thing that can happen to the intelligence process is if analysts tailor their reports to please perceived wishes of their political masters. Former DIA chief Pat Lang famously called it, “drinking the koolaid.”
If I were a Senator in follow-up hearings, I’d want to press Congressman Panetta to see what he really meant. Does he know something about Iran’s nuclear programs since 2007? Was he misunderstanding a leading question? Does he come into office disagreeing with the considered understanding not just of the CIA, but of the entire intelligence community? Does he intend to require those he would supervise to re-write their reports to match pre-formed conclusions?

Getting to Global Zero (Nuclear Weapons)

I went to a great press event today, for the new worldwide movement ‘Global Zero’, which has rolled out what looks like a quite achievable plan to verifiably rid the world of all nuclear weapons by 2035.
Hallelujah. A new day is dawning… (Sorry, I can’t get that spiritual out of my head today.)
One of the most striking aspects of today’s event was the participation of two retired high-level security officials from each of India and Pakistan… And they all seemed to agree that their countries’ nuclear weapons have no actual utility, either militarily or politically.
This judgment was particularly striking given the current tensions between the two countries in the wake of the Mumbai terror attacks.
Shaharyar Khan, the former Foreign Secretary of Pakistan, said explicitly, “Since India and Pakistan exploded their nuclear weapons in 1998 there has been a qualitative change in terms of seeing that they do not have utility. We’ve gained much maturity in this realm.”
His compatriot Lt. Gen. (ret) Talat Masood said,

Continue reading

Lest we forget: Hiroshima Day

August 6 is the anniversary of the first ever use of the atomic bomb against “enemy” targets. This action was committed, as we know, by the United States government in 1945, as World War 2 was drawing towards an end. Atomic bombs have only ever been deployed twice against enemy targets. The other time was three days later, when the US dropped a bomb of a different design over Nagasaki.
The Wikipedia entry on the effects of the Hiroshima bomb reads as follows:

    According to most estimates, the immediate effects of the blast of the bombing of Hiroshima killed approximately 70,000 people. Estimates of total deaths by the end of 1945 from burns, radiation and related disease, the effects of which were aggravated by lack of medical resources, range from 90,000 to 140,000. Some estimates state up to 200,000 had died by 1950, due to cancer and other long-term effects. From 1950 to 1990, roughly 9% of the cancer and leukemia deaths among bomb survivors was due to radiation from the bombs. At least eleven known prisoners of war died from the bombing.

Those were the casualties from just one bomb, which was much smaller than many of the thousands of A-bombs in the arsenals of the world’s eight nuclear powers today.
Among the casualties in Hiroshima there were also large numbers of indentured or virtually enslaved Koreans who had been brought to work in in war industries there by Japan’s military-governmental authorities and many thousands of civilians, including women, children, retirees, and workers in civilian industries.
It is worth remembering the US’s status as the only nation that has ever used an atomic bomb in war— and which did so against two densely populated cities– as we listen to the bellicose rhetoric that has been coming from Washington in response to Iraq’s pursuit of its nuclear technology program (about which no-one has produced evidence on ongoing attempts to weaponize it.)
Last week I was fortunate to have a short conversation with Prof. Chieko Kitagawa Otsuru, a professor of political science at Kansai University, near Osaka, Japan and a native of Hiroshima, who has been here in Washington studying the US government’s decisionmaking system in matters of war-making. She talked quite a bit about the whole system of peace education that grew up in Hiroshima and elsewhere in Japan in response to the events of the 1930s and 1940s, including the US atomic bombings and fire-bombings of many Japanese cities. She reviewed how in Hiroshima, the concern for the victims of the bombing has been broadened over time to include the Korean (and the Japanese “buraku”, or “untouchable”) victims of the bombing, as well as the more powerful “mainstream” (i.e. non-buraku) Japanese victims.
I was familiar with some of those issues from 2000, when I visited Hiroshima. At that point, the local authorities had just moved into the main Peace Park that lies at the heart of the bomb-affected area the memorial to the Korean victims of the bombing, which previously had been kept outside the park.
Prof. Otsuru talked a little about how the victims and survivors from Nagasaki often get short shrift in remembrances of the bombings. And she talked about the pressures that have been building up in Japanese government circles to move even further away from the strictly “self-defense” aspects of the country’s military forces that are mandated under its post-1945 constitution. These pressures have also, I note, come from the US, which has been eager to have the Japanese “Self-Defense” Forces play a bigger role in supporting the US deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Prof. Otsuru also put me in touch with Dr. Hiroko Takahashi, an assistant professor at the Hiroshima Peace Institute, who recently published a book (in Japanese) that charts the way the US occupation authorities in Japan used the population of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as, in effect, guinea pigs from which they could learn more about the physiological and biological consequences of detonating the bomb.
(I recall from my own visit to the Hiroshima Peace Museum, that they showed that the whole bombing had been planned to be, to some extent, a “human trial” experiment from the get-go, since shortly before they detonated the bomb they dropped a number of passive sensors over the city whose only function was to record the radiological events that would follow.)
Anyway, Dr. Takahashi has kindly allowed me to re-publish here on Just World News a short article she has prepared in English that summarizes the main findings of her book. She writes that most of her book was based on US government documents covering not only the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but also subsequent US nuclear activities including “Operation Crossroads”, a series of two atomic-bomb tests conducted on Bikini Atoll in 1946.
Here, with my thanks to her, is her article. (I have very lightly edited it. All the emphases in the text are my own. ~HC.)

    The Reality of Nuclear War Concealed by U.S. and the A-bomb Disease Certification Class-action Lawsuits

(Winner of the 2nd Peace Study Encouragement Award of the Peace Studies Association of Japan)
By Hiroko Takahashi
In February 2008 I published a book entitled Fuin sareta Hiroshima/Nagasaki [Classified Hiroshima and Nagasaki: The U.S. Nuclear Test and Civil Defense Program] (Gaifusha, 2008).
This book reflects the research I have carried out in Hiroshima since my appointment at the Hiroshima Peace Institute, and the doctoral dissertation which was submitted to Doshisha University in 2003. For this book I drew mainly upon U.S. government Documents collected at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland U.S.
Drawing upon Manhattan Project records and contemporary newspaper articles, Chapter 1 examined the activities of the U.S. government and military regarding the collection of medical information in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and public announcements about the impact of the A-bomb during the period of the occupation of Japan.
As part of the Manhattan Project, in 1943 the U.S. government set up the “Radioactive Poisons Subcommittee,” and conducted a study on the military use of radioactive materials. A report of the subcommittee explained “the factors involved in employing radio-active materials effectively” are “Highly persistent and can contaminate an area for many months. Immediate decontamination could take place only at the sacrifice of personnel.”
Following the dropping of the A-bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Japanese government claimed that the A-bomb was a more brutal weapon than poison gas which had been prohibited by international law.
On September 5 1945, following the start of the occupation, Wilfred Burchett’s report published in the British Daily Express stated that, “People are still dying mysteriously and horribly-people who were uninjured in the cataclysm–from an unknown something which I can describe as the atomic plague.” On the other hand, Brigadier General Thomas F. Farrell, deputy to the Head of Pacific Command Major General L.R. Groves, “denied categorically that it produced a dangerous lingering radioactivity in the ruins of the town or caused a form of poison gas at the moment of explosion.” (New York Times September 13, 1945). That is to say, he denied the existence of residual radiation which occurred one minute after the detonation of the A-bomb.
The purposes of the U.S. government in making such a statement which underestimated the influence of the A-bomb were to reject the Japanese government’s claims that the use of the A-bomb was against international law, and to make practicable the landing of occupation troops in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. On the other hand, the U.S. Military Joint Commission for the Investigation of the Effects of the Atomic Bomb in Japan and the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey collected, brought to the U.S. and classified many Atomic Bomb materials.
Chapter 2 focused on the U.S. government’s declassification policy of the A-bomb issue through the use of documents from the Manhattan Project and the Atomic Energy Commission. Before the commencement of Operation Crossroads, the U.S. nuclear test held in the Pacific in the summer of 1946, Groves recommended the publication of the Manhattan Engineer District Report, the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey Report, and a report written by the British Mission to Japan. However, at the same time he stated that “No authoritative statement on radiation and its effects can be made by anyone until the completion of the analysis of the available data by the Joint Medical Commission.”
After the first two Operation Crossroads tests were conducted, due to the serious contamination caused by the second test, a further test was canceled. It was recommended that “if it was desirable from a Naval standpoint to do so, that all pictures and written material be censored and edited by someone familiar with security and the technical information involved.” U.S. Navy personnel cleaned the contaminated battleships used for the test, but it was nevertheless admitted that “Immediate decontamination could take place only at the sacrifice of personnel.”
Chapter 3 discussed the Civil Defense Program of the early 1950s. The U.S. government explained how people could survive a nuclear attack by means of a “Duck and Cover” approach and ignored the issue of the impact of residual radiation.
Chapter 4 discussed the 1954 Bikini Atoll nuclear test and the subsequent Civil Defense Program, drawing upon documents from the Federal Civil Defense Administration (FCDA) and Atomic Energy Committee (AEC). Following the exposure of the Lucky Dragon crew members to fallout from a nuclear test, the dangers of fallout began to be widely understood. In 1955 the FCDA and AEC claimed that “You can survive” even the dangers from fallout through inviting civilians to a nuclear test conducted in Nevada. At the time, the AEC was still denying the existence of fallout (residual radiation) in the cases of Hiroshima and Nagasaki due to the fact that the detonation of the A-bombs had taken place at high altitude.
Chapters 1 to 4 reveal that the U.S. government consistently underestimated the influence of the radiation caused by the A-bomb and based on such public statements, constructed the Civil Defense Program.
Following the submission of this dissertation in March 2003, newspapers reported about citizens filing A-bomb disease certification class-action lawsuits against the Japanese government. I was very surprised to learn that the so-called “science” which had basically been produced by the U. S. government was still being applied in the Japanese government’s certification of A-bomb disease, which ignores the influence of residual radiation. The standards and logic produced by the “perpetrator” were still being actually applied to the “victims.”
It is clear that “data” collected from Hibakusha [the survivors of the two bombings in Japan] were being collected for the purpose of preparing for future nuclear war. On the other hand, these people’s appeals were ignored in the name of “science” which did not recognize the existence of residual radiation. Sixty-three years have already passed since the dropping of the Atomic Bomb. Now it is time to “judge” this event for the sake of human beings and not for militaristic purposes. I hope that this book will contribute towards this “judgment” and eventually assist in the procurement of justice.

    (Thanks for the work you’ve done, Dr. Takahashi. I hope your book gets widely read– and that it quickly gets translated into English! ~ HC)

Never again! Nuclear disarmament now!

Unwinnability and war: Nuclear weapons division

Attentive JWN readers will know that recently I’ve been doing some thinking about the proposition that over recent years, foreign wars may well have become unwinnable.
Of course, once enough people become convinced that foreigns wars are unwinnable, then they also should become unwageable… and the nations of the world would have to strengthen all their other, non-military ways of resolving differences, and cut back on military spending considerably…
I note that while my own analysis of the unwinnability question is based mainly on the US’s experience in Iraq since 2003 and Israel’s in Lebanon in 2006, Bill the spouse has also suggested that the unwinnability of foreign wars can be identified much earlier than that, including back to Saddam’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait.
Or why not his 1980 invasion of Iran, perhaps?
Be that as it may… One response I’ve received from some people to the proposition about unwinnability has been, “Well maybe so… but you’ve only been talking about non-nuclear wars… so if it’s those that are unwinnable doesn’t that just increase the incentive for states to acquire nuclear weapons?”
Well, I’ve done a bunch of thinking about nuclear weapons, too, in various contexts over the years; much of it back in the 1980s when for a few years I was a member of something called the Washington Council on Non-Proliferation. (Does that still exist? This report says not.) So I kept that “nuclear” objection to my unwinnability thesis tucked into the back of my mind. And last week, when I saw a notice that the New America Foundation was sponsoring a talk on the topic of “The Winning Weapon? Rethinking Nuclear Weapons in Light of Hiroshima,” I hurried along there.
The presenter was Ward Wilson, an independent scholar who recently won a prize for the essay he wrote on this topic– which has also, incidentally, been published here (PDF).
And here, btw, is Wilson’s own blog post recording the event, which has a link to the video record of the discussion.
If you’re interested in nuclear weapons, or particularly in nuclear disarmament, it is definitely worthwhile watching the video that’s accessible there, which is posted on YouTube and runs 1 hour 16 mins.
Ward made a handful of extremely thought-provoking and useful arguments that basically attacked the notion that nuclear weapons have military utility.
His first argument was based on a close re-reading of the historical record of the Japanese government’s decision-making in the days leading up to and right after Truman’s use of atomic weapons against Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He took on the commonly-told “story” in the US is that the use of the A-bombs (while highly regrettable etc etc) did nonetheless succeed in persuading the Japanese government to issue a speedy notice of surrender— and thereby also saved the lives of the thousands of US servicemen who could otherwise have been expected to die in a continuation of the island-hopping advance toward Tokyo. Ward’s conclusion, using the Japanese record, is that it was Russia’s entry into the war in Asia, which happened a few days after the bombing of Hiroshima, that was far more important in persuading– or as he says, “coercing”– the Japan authorities to surrender.
He used another line of argument, too, one based on a number of technical military considerations. What was aimed at with the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, he said, was city destruction, with the aim that seeing the destruction of entire cities would so “shock” (and perhaps also “awe”?) Japan’s national command authorities that they would immediately capitulate and sue for surrender. But, he argued, Japan had already seen worse destruction of cities in the weeks preceding Hiroshima, achieved through the US firebombing of cities. And moreover, throughout history, he argued, the destruction of cities has not been strategically decisive.
(I hope readers here are seeing the connections and parallels with my own writing about the Israeli bombing of Beirut, etc.)
Regarding the military utility of nuclear weapons, he said,

    Basically, there are two problems with nuclear weapons: they are too big, and they leave poison wherever they are used.

He drew a great comparison with chariots, which he depicted as kind of the “shock and awe” weapons of their day. He said that, while they may have “shocked and awed” the peasants of the societies where they were used (while also, I might add, amply expressing and feeding the grandiosity of the military leaders who raced around in them) still, their actual military utility was extremely low.
To illustrate this, he showed a bas-relief of a charioteer trying to use a bow and arrow as he rode into battle. The guy, using a bow and arrow to be able to project his ordnance against the enemy, had to use both hands to do that– and had left the reins of the chariot tied around his waist. “So essentially,” Ward said, “he was out of control.”
A great analogy.
And the reason the charioteer chose to use a bow and arrow was that he could not easily or effectively use a sword or spear against his opponents, given that having two horses pull the chariot gave it considerable width, keeping him from getting up close to the foe. (The size issue, there.)
The other great analogy that Ward used for nuclear weapons was the idea– expressed at around 53 minutes into the YouTube video– that we should think of nuclear weapons as being like hanging a bottle of nitroglycerine on a string in the family’s kitchen, as a way of “deterring” the entry or activities of burglars. “Just the idea that you are fearful as you and your family creep around the bottle hanging there doesn’t prove that it’s effective!”
Anyway, it was a great presentation; and the article and video are great, too. I am so glad I went. The only troubling thing that happened was that there was a smart, well-informed Japanese scholar in the audience, too– a woman who grew up in Hiroshima and teaches at a Japanese university, who is here in the US for the summer… And I think that Ward and the (also male) chair of the session treated her rather harshly at the end for trying to finish the entirely reasonable point she was trying to make about the US public and leaders preferring to believe that the bombing of Hiroshima had had military/strategic utility because of their reluctance to face up to the horrendous humanitarian disaster it had caused. Honestly, I can’t imagine a Holocaust survivor ever being treated in such a fashion in a public gathering; and I found their accusations that she was too “emotional” (or “passionate”) quite unwarranted.
But in general, as I said, a really helpful presentation. Ward made a whole bunch more good points there that I haven’t had time to write about here.

Benny Morris’s nuclear blackmail scenario

For the Israeli government, using its very robust nuclear-weapons capability for purposes of blackmailing other parties– including, certainly, the US– is nothing new. (See my 1988 World Policy Journal article– PDF— on that topic.) However, that blackmail is usually carried out in a subtle and behind-closed-doors fashion.
But now, here comes Israeli citizen Benny Morris openly expressing (and expressing support for) the most blatant form of nuclear blackmail imaginable. In this op-ed prominently featured in today’s NYT Benny writes:

    ISRAEL will almost surely attack Iran’s nuclear sites in the next four to seven months — and the leaders in Washington and even Tehran should hope that the attack will be successful enough to cause at least a significant delay in the Iranian production schedule, if not complete destruction, of that country’s nuclear program. Because if the attack fails, the Middle East will almost certainly face a nuclear war — either through a subsequent pre-emptive Israeli nuclear strike or a nuclear exchange shortly after Iran gets the bomb.

I have read and re-read Benny’s piece, and it terrifies me. (It also concerns me greatly that the NYT purveys without comment this extremely crude and mendacious endorsement of nuclear blackmail.) It is terrifying for a number of reasons, including the way it so easily reproduces some quite unsubstantiated claims about the status of Iran’s nuclear program and the status of current diplomatic efforts.
He writes,

    Every intelligence agency in the world believes the Iranian program is geared toward making weapons, not to the peaceful applications of nuclear power. And… everyone knows that such measures have so far led nowhere and are unlikely to be applied with sufficient scope to cause Iran real pain, given Russia’s and China’s continued recalcitrance and Western Europe’s (and America’s) ambivalence in behavior, if not in rhetoric. Western intelligence agencies agree that Iran will reach the “point of no return” in acquiring the capacity to produce nuclear weapons in one to four years.

None of these claims about what “everyone” or even just all “Western intel agencies” know or judge or agree to be the case can be substantiated, and in the case of all of them there is also some significant counter-evidence. (November ’07 NIE, Benny?)
The reason I mention Benny’s extremely sloppy (mis-)use of evidence is because he is a historian. He is not, actually, someone who has ever delved deeply into deterrence theory. So at least his historian’s skills regarding use of evidence should be of a decent caliber. But sadly, they are not.
(Personally, for me, this is all extremely sad. I’ve known Benny Morris for more than 20 years, and have liked him a lot even though in recent years we’ve disagreed more and more. But with this article he crosses a new bridge.)
But the main problem with the piece is the argument it carries, which can be broken down as follows:

    1. Iran is, without a doubt, pursuing a nuclear-weapons program which will achieve a capacity to produce NWs “in one to four years.”
    2. In an attempt to forestall that development, either the US or Israel must launch a “pre-emptive” attack against Iran’s nuclear facilities, using non-nuclear weapons. He completely rules out the idea that pursuit of negotiations or other non-military means might succeed in this.
    3. But the US seems unwilling to launch the necessary attack. “Which leaves only Israel.” And the period between the US election and the inauguration of the next president in January is the best time for this.
    4. And Americans should support this Israeli, conventional-weapon attack on Iran, because if it doesn’t, Israel will “almost certainly” have to use its nuclear weapons against Iran.

I do not have time right now to undertake the detailed critique that Benny’s article requires at so, so many points along the way.
For now, I just want to identify his article for what it is: the crude blackmail note of someone urging the use of nuclear blackmail.
One great relief: Benny is speaking only for his own fevered mind in writing this article, and thankfully not for the Israeli government. But of course we can also wonder what kind of communications his compatriots in government are having with their US counterparts on this topic, at this time of intense consultation among them.
I also want to note the arrogance with which this Israeli citizen effortlessly brandishes his country’s long well-known nuclear-weapons capabilities. In a way, this is a breath of fresh air within the US body politic (and within the pages of the NYT.) Israel’s long-pursued posture of deliberate ambiguity regarding its extremely robust nuclear arsenal– or, large arsenal of ten-minutes-to-full-assembly nuclear weapons– has been echoed, within most of the US national discourse, by a studied ignoring of that arsenal. That has led to repeated use of such blatant mis-statements of fact in the media and elsewhere as the allegation that Iran might be about to “introduce” nuclear weapons into the Middle East, etc etc.
At least Benny Morris– and along with him, the NYT– has now blown away all that miasma of long-maintained denial and obfuscation.
As a US citizen, I also want to note the breath-taking arrogance with which he minimizes the quite predictable jeopardy into which any Israeli attack on Iran– nuclear or “conventional”– would immediately place the US’s very vulnerable troop deployments in Iraq and elsewhere near Iran’s borders.
He writes quite blithely about the Israeli strike force being “allowed the use of Jordanian and Iraqi airspace (and perhaps, pending American approval, even Iraqi air strips)…” But he expresses no recognition at all that the use of Jordanian or Iraqi airspace, all of which falls within the US’s present theater of operations in the Middle East, would under international law justify Iranian counter-attacks against the US and its numerous long and vulnerable supply lines in the region.
He has a short reference to the “likely result” of the Israeli non-nuclear attack on Iran, that,

    The Iranians will also likely retaliate by… activating international Muslim terrorist networks against Israeli and Jewish — and possibly American — targets worldwide (though the Iranians may at the last moment be wary of provoking American military involvement).

No, Benny Morris. It would not be “international Muslim terrorist networks” that would “possibly” retaliate against American targets worldwide. Much more likely, it would be the Iranian military, acting from its own homeland to respond to an attack on this homeland, that would launch a military response against the troops of Israel’s US ally that George Bush has seen fit to deploy in large numbers, in numerous very vulnerable positions that are extremely close to Iran.
And no. In the event that their homeland is attacked by members of the US-Israel alliance, the Iranians are not likely to be “wary of provoking American military involvement.” They have read the same US war-gaming reports that all the rest of us have, that say that any military attack against Iran would likely lead to consequences that would be disastrous for the US military (though also extremely costly for Iran.)
For Iranians, after all, Iran is their country. Of course, regarding the balance of interest and the balance of wills involved in any military confrontations along its borders, their will to fight and die would be 1,000 times as strong as that of the Americans. Especially given that the consequences of this war would also be devastating for the already deeply troubled world economy.
It ain’t going to happen, Benny Morris. Take your cheap but terrifying nuclear threats and stop trying to blackmail my country and the countries of all your neighbors in the Middle East.
Best of all, a note to Benny Morris and anyone else who thinks like him: there is an alternative to war. It is called negotiations. And it is starting to happen, just a little bit, right now.
So far, the US-Iranian-EU talks in Geneva are only about some details of the future negotiations over the Iran nuclear program. Talks about talks. But still, much, much better than the alternative..
In the future, the US-Iranian negotiations will need to go much further, and deal with a broad range of issues. But at the nuclear level, the single clearest way forward is to work aggressively for the creation of a Middle east that is verifiedly free of all nuclear weapons capabilities.
At that point, the world would no longer have to put up with all this tiresome and destabilizing instances of Israeli nuclear blackmail.

Kissinger on the Israeli nukes

U.S. government archives from 1969 currently being declassified and made available to the public show that back in 1969 Nixon’s national security adviser, Henry Kissinger, (1) knew that Israeli had nuclear weapons, contrary to public avowals of no such knowledge, and (2) helped to design and implement a policy whereby Israel’s connivance in a scheme to keep its nuclear arsenal hidden would be rewarded by the US giving them additional, very potent, non-nuclear weapons.
Kudos to the NYT’s David Stout who has been scouring the newly released documents and writing about their revelations, e.g. here. I have long argued, e.g. in this 1988 (long PDF) article here, that successive Israeli governments have used their thinly veiled possession of a powerful nuclear arsenal as much to blackmail the US as for any other purposes. For example, one of the Kissinger quotes Stout has from 1969 is that, “The Israelis, who are one of the few peoples whose survival is genuinely threatened, are probably more likely than almost any other country to actually use their nuclear weapons.” I actually doubt that, under most scenarios. After all, what would happen to Israel itself if they did use them?
Maybe Kissinger actually the Israelis would be crazy enough to use ’em, or maybe he only wrote that to Nixon, to scare him into going along with the conventional-arms transfer scheme. (Kissinger was also, in his role as a US strategist as opposed to merely an Israeli flak, known to use the idea of trying to make opponents think the US would be crazy enough to use its nukes or do other irrational things, as a way of scaring them into undertaking actions of appeasement.)
No time to write more now. Stout’s piece has some good links to the actual documents which will certainly be worth following up.
Of course, this whole “revelation” of a matter that has in fact been public knowledge for decades now– that Israel was indeed the first nuclear-weapons state in the Middle east and so far remains the only one– could be seen as coming at a bit of an awkward time for the Bushites, as they continue to try to crank up opposition to Iran’s nuclear program, which is still nowhere near producing any nuclear weapons at all even if (which is as yet unproven) that is where the Iranians are heading.

More on the US’s nuclear-use posture

This is additional info on whether the US has or doesn’t have a meaningful “no-first-use” posture regarding the use of nuclear weapons, a topic I wrote about briefly here, earlier today.

A good friend sent me this link, which is to a page on the Nuclearfiles.org website dated April 1995, that presents the nuclear-use posture of all five of the recognized nuclear-weapons states. For the US it says this:

    The United States reaffirms that it will not use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapons States parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons except in the case of an invasion or any other attack on the United States, its territories, its armed forces or any other troops, its allies or States towards which it has a security commitment, carried out or sustained by such a non-nuclear-weapon State, in association or alliance with a nuclear-weapon State.

This is not an unqualified No First Use statement, though it goes some way to providing the negative security assurances (to non-nuclear states) that are required as part of the NPT’s “Grand Bargain.”
On that web-page, the positions presented by Russia, the UK, and France all look very similar to that one.
China’s NFU position is, by contrast, far less hedged-about and equivocal. It is this:

    China undertakes not to be the first to use nuclear weapons at any time or under any circumstances. China undertakes not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against any non-nuclear-weapons states or nuclear-weapon-free zones at any time or under any circumstances.

I was disapppointed that that web-page did not give any sources or links for these statements. So I did a little more online research and came up with these resources, which considerably enrich (and substantially change) the picture:
1. Global Security has, on their website, excerpts from a leaked copy of the Nuclear Posture Review of 2001-2002 that was presented to Congress on 31 December 2001 by Secdef Donald Rumsfeld. Given the stature and reputation of Global Security, I am assuming these are accurate excerpts from the document in question, which has never been made fully public.
It includes the following quotes:

    — p.7: “Nuclear weapons play a critical role in the defense capabilities of the United States, its allies and friends. They provide credible military options to deter a wide range of threats, including WMD and large-scale conventional military force. These nuclear capabilities possess unique properties that give the United States options to hold at risk classes of targets [that are] important to achieve strategic and political objectives.
    — pp.12-13: “Composed of both non-nuclear systems and nuclear weapons, the strike element of the New Triad can provide greater flexibility in the design and conduct of military campaigns to defeat opponents decisively. Non-nuclear strike capabilities may be particularly useful to limit collateral damage and conflict escalation. Nuclear weapons could be employed against targets able to withstand non-nuclear attack, (for example, deep underground bunkers or bio-weapon facilities).”

I will note the following:

    a. He was stating explicitly that the US nuclear force could be used to deter threats from non-nuclear forces, including both CW or BW threats as well as “large-scale” non-WMD forces. I.e., the US under President George W. Bush does NOT have anything resembling a “no first use” policy.
    b. He was saying the US could even use nukes against “political” objectives. What does that mean??
    c. Planning to use nuclear weapons as part of broader military operations aimed at defeating an enemy is considerably different than planning to use nuclear weapons only as a deterrent against other country’s use of nuclear– or even non-nuclear– weapons.

2. The Joint Chiefs of Staff’s ‘Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations’ of March 2005(advanced draft.) This document was originally scheduled for publication in October 2003, but it became repeatedly delayed. In around September 2005, the people at the Nuclear Information Project got hold of an advanced draft dated March2005. So did the WaPo’s Walter Pincus, and Hans Kristenson of Arms Control Today.
After Pincus and Kristenson wrote about the DJNO document– which called for the first time for the use of US nuclear weapons in a pre-emptive strike (i.e., in line with Bush’s National Security Strategy of September 2002)– the Senate Armed Services Committee called a hearing on the matter, and publication of the final version of the document was abruptly cancelled.
As the Nuclear Information Project people wrote, though,

    Does the cancellation mean that U.S. nuclear policy has changed? No. The decision to cancel the documents simply removes controversial documents from the public domain and from the Pentagon’s internal reading list. The White House and Pentagon guidance that directs the use of nuclear weapons remains unchanged by the cancellation.

3. Retired US arms control negotiator Jack Mendelsohn’s mid-2002 analysis of the 2001-2002 Nuclear Posture Review is also really useful.
He writes:

    The document… singles out five countries that could be involved in “immediate, potential or unexpected” contingencies [i.e., requiring some form of US nuclear operations]: North Korea, Iraq, Iran, Syria and Libya. North Korea and Iraq are characterised as “chronic military concerns.” All five are considered to “sponsor or harbor terrorists, and all have active WMD and missile programs.”
    In addition, the NPR lists China as a country that could be involved in an “immediate or potential” contingency and, while a nuclear strike contingency involving Russia “is not expected,” Russian nuclear forces and programs “remain a concern.” Carrying forward the arguments of the Clinton administration for it’s ‘hedge’ force, the NPR cautions that in “the event that US relations with Russia significantly worsen in the future, the United States may need to revise its nuclear force levels and posture.”
    Keeping open the option to use nuclear weapons in other than a deterrent or retaliatory role is not new. Since at least the Gulf War and during the Clinton administration, the United States has embraced a dual and contradictory policy on nuclear weapons use. The President, through the Secretary of State, declared in 1978 and reaffirmed in 1995 in connection with the review and extension of the 1970 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), that the United States – joined by the other four declared nuclear powers – would not use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons states party to the NPT unless they are allied with a nuclear state in an attack against the United States or its allies.
    The National Security Council (NSC) and the Defense Department, on the other hand, believing that deterrence is strengthened by ambiguity, have for some time taken the position that “no options are ruled out” in response to an attack by any weapon of mass destruction. In 1996, NSC official Robert Bell, in conjunction with the US signature of the Protocols to the African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone (ANWFZ) Treaty, announced that US adherence “will not limit options available to the United States in response to an attack by an ANWFZ party using weapons of mass destruction.” In late 1998, Walter Slocombe, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, stated that retaining the option to use nuclear weapons against an attack with chemical and/or biological weapons “is simply an issue of making sure that we continue to maintain a high level of uncertainty or high level of concern, if you will, at what the potential aggressor would face if he used [CBW] or indeed took other aggressive acts…”
    The latest round in this policy tango occurred earlier this year when in February Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton called into question the utility of and administration support for the US pledge not to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states.22 Questioned about Bolton’s comments, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher reiterated the most recent version of the negative security commitment (1995) and then added: “We will do whatever is necessary to deter the use of WMD against the United States, its allies, and its interests. If a WMD is used against the United States or its allies, we will not rule out any specific type of military response.”

So I guess I still stand substantially by what I wrote earlier this morning. The US has never been prepared to adopt a clear and unequivocal “no first use” policy (though the declaration of 1995 was a partial step in the right direction.)
These days, of the “Recognized Nuclear Five”, it looks as if only China has an unequivocal NFU policy.

    Update, 9:57 p.m.:

More resources, adduced here because said good friend did refer specifically to Robert McNamara:
4. Robert McNamara writing in Foreign Policy mag, May/June 2005:

    The United States has never endorsed the policy of “no first use,” not during my seven years as secretary [of Defense] or since. We have been and remain prepared to initiate the use of nuclear weapons—by the decision of one person, the president—against either a nuclear or nonnuclear enemy whenever we believe it is in our interest to do so.

5. Robert McNamara, “Defense Arrangements of the North Atlantic Community,” Department of State Bulletin 47 (July 9, 1962), pp. 64-70. Republished here:

    We shall continue to maintain powerful nuclear forces for the alliance as a whole. As the President [JFK] has said, “Only through such strength can we be certain of deterring a nuclear strike, or an overwhelming ground attack, upon our forces and allies.”

Etc., etc.

Hillary Clinton’s irresponsible hawkishness on nukes

Hillary Clinton yesterday outdid herself in trying to appear “tough” on foreign affairs when she refused to rule out the use of nuclear weapons against Osama Bin Laden or other terrorist leaders in Afghanistan or Pakistan.
The WaPo’s Anne Kornblut wrote there that,

    Clinton’s comments came in response to Obama’s remarks earlier in the day that nuclear weapons are “not on the table” in dealing with ungoverned territories in the two countries, and they continued a steady tug of war among the Democratic presidential candidates over foreign policy.
    “I think it would be a profound mistake for us to use nuclear weapons in any circumstance” in Afghanistan or Pakistan, Obama said. He then added that he would not use such weapons in situations “involving civilians.”
    “Let me scratch that,” he said. “There’s been no discussion of nuclear weapons. That’s not on the table.”
    Obama (Ill.) was responding to a question by the Associated Press about whether there was any circumstance in which he would be prepared or willing to use nuclear weapons in Afghanistan and Pakistan to defeat terrorism and bin Laden.
    “There’s been no discussion of using nuclear weapons, and that’s not a hypothetical that I’m going to discuss,” Obama said. When asked whether his answer also applied to the possible use of tactical nuclear weapons, he said it did.
    By the afternoon, Clinton (N.Y.) had responded with an implicit rebuke. “Presidents should be careful at all times in discussing the use and nonuse of nuclear weapons,” she said, adding that she would not answer hypothetical questions about the use of nuclear force.
    “Presidents since the Cold War have used nuclear deterrents to keep the peace, and I don’t believe any president should make blanket statements with the regard to use or nonuse,” Clinton said.

It is well known that– ever since the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, almost exactly 62 years ago today– the US has never been prepared to state openly that it would “not be the first to use” nuclear weapons. Russia, and before that the Soviet Union, did have an explicit “no first use” stance.
The US’s stance therefore leaves open– or, as US pols like to say, “on the table”– the possibility that the US might use nuclear weapons in response to somebody else’s non-nuclear attack.
But to leave “on the table” the possibility that the US might use nuclear weapons against terrorists??? This is even more shocking, and seems to reveal that neither Hillary Clinton nor any of the other pols who adopt the same, striving-to-be-tough stance, basically have no idea about the nature of nuclear weapons or the consequences of their use.
The use of even what the US calls “tactical” nuclear weapons would be devastating for a wide area around the detonation site. And upon using any nuclear weapon in such circumstances, the US would also immediately lose just about all credibility as a leader of any moral standing in the world.
Barrack Obama is quite right to say that the use of nukes should not be on the table in the discussion of combating Al-Qaeda or other terrorists.

Nuclear disarmament, as well as nonproliferation

Late in June, on the last day that Tony Blair was in office in Britain, his Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett made a notable speech at the Carnegie Endowment in Washington in which she called on both the US and Russia to make deep cuts in their nuclear arsenals.
Beckett recalled that at the heart of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty of 1970 there was a “grand bargain” between the recognized nuclear-weapons states and the non-nuclear states, under which the nuclear-weapons states undertook to engage in complete and general disarmament, in return for the non-nuclear states foreswearing the pursuit of nuclear arsenals. And she noted the key linkage this established between nuclear (non-)proliferation and nuclear disarmament:

    Our efforts on non-proliferation will be dangerously undermined if others believe – however unfairly – that the terms of the grand bargain [between nuclear and non-nuclear states] have changed, that the nuclear weapon states have abandoned any commitment to disarmament.

This is an excellent point to make– though I don’t currently see any need for that caveat about “however unfairly”. So here are my two main questions about the Beckett speech:

    1. To what extent did the position she laid out actually reflect anything about the positions to be taken by the soon-to-take-over government of Gordon Brown?
    2. Which people of similar political stature within the US are equally ready to speak out publicly about the need for nuclear disarmament?

Regarding the first of those questions, I detected a faint echo of the “Beckett position” in the speech that new Foreign Secretary David Miliband made for Chatham House and Avaaz.org earlier this week. (Video from Avaaz, here.) Miliband spoke quite a lot there about nuclear nonproliferation, and the need to achieve this in cooperation with other countries, etc.– all pretty boiler-plateish stuff, really, unless you come from a John Bolton-like position of rampant unilateralism.
But he did also say at one point:

    We need to find similar ways of leading thought on other areas, whether this is concrete and immediate challenges such as nuclear disarmament and proliferation or longer term challenges such as the future of global institutions…

So I guess what I’m seeing there is that he thinks nuclear disarmament is a concrete and immediate challenge (and one that may be linked to nuclear proliferation)– but it is still only something we need to find ways to start thinking about, not something we actually need to do anything about at this point?
And it was indeed quite appropriate that Miliband didn’t commit his government to doing anything about nuclear disarmament right now… Especially since, as Paul Rogers has laid out at depressing length here, the Brown government last Wednesday announced plans:

    1. “to allow the US base at Menwith Hill in north Yorkshire to become a key component in the new national missile-defence system Washington is now developing” [maybe that should be a global missile-defence system? ~HC] and
    2. “to build two huge new aircraft-carriers for the Royal Navy, much bigger than any other ship the country has ever deployed… The military purpose of the two new carriers is to give Britain a global expeditionary strike capability that it has lacked for decades… ”

Yes, certainly depressing.
Rogers notes, too, that the new carrier-building program is intimately linked to the program had Blair started, to upgrade and replace Britain’s arsenal of Trident, submarine-launched nuclear missiles. He analyzes Brown’s decisions in these fields at some length, noting that the timing of the two announcements, “was in the best tradition of British democracy: in a familiar pattern for decisions that governments seek to ‘bury’, they arrived at the end of the parliamentary session as MPs prepare to leave for the summer recess, thus ensuring an absence of debate and (in the main) media discussion…”
He comments,

    What is really dismaying at this early stage of the Gordon Brown government is the missed opportunity to take a hard look at Britain’s defence policy and engage in a fundamental review of the country’s long-term security needs. Instead, it seems that in this key area of Whitehall – notwithstanding the rhetoric of change from the new prime minister – it is business as usual.
    There is a remote possibility that wiser counsel will prevail, perhaps after the next election…

And talking of elections, here we are in the United States, and what do our presidential candidates here have to say about nuclear proliferation and nuclear disarmament?
On the Democratic side, both Rep. Dennis Kucinich and Gov. Bill Richardson have articulated what look to me like excellent positions.
Kucinich’s, as expressed here is as follows:

    It is practical to work for peace. I speak of peace and diplomacy not just for the sake of peace itself. But, for practical reasons, we must work for peace as a means of achieving permanent security. It is similarly practical to work for total nuclear disarmament, particularly when nuclear arms do not even come close to addressing the real security problems which confront our nation, witness the events of September 11, 2001.

And Richardson’s, as expressed on his own website here, is this:

    Getting all nations to agree to a stronger nonproliferation regime will require skillful diplomacy and new thinking. Which brings me to the second task: the nuclear states must stop making new weapons and must reduce the size of their existing arsenals.
    The Non-Proliferation Treaty commits non-nuclear states to forego nuclear weapons, and it also commits the nuclear weapons states to the goal of nuclear disarmament. To get others to take the NPT seriously, we need to take it seriously ourselves. We should re-affirm our commitment to the long-term goal of global nuclear disarmament, and we should invite the Russians to join us in a moratorium on all new nuclear weapons. And we should negotiate further staged reductions in our arsenals, beyond what has already been agreed, over the next decade.
    In a world in which nuclear terrorism rather than war with Russia is the main threat, reducing all nuclear arsenals, in a careful, orderly way, makes everyone safer.
    Negotiations to reduce our arsenal also are our diplomatic ace-in-the-hole. We can leverage our own proposed reductions to get the other nuclear powers to do the same — and simultaneously get the non-nuclear powers to forego both weapons and nuclear fuel enrichment, and to agree to rigorous global safeguards and verification procedures.
    The United States also should ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, not only because it is good policy, but also to send a signal to the world that America has turned a corner, and once again will be a global leader, not a unilateralist loner.

Richardson has considerable experience in the nuclear-weapons field. In the Clinton administration he occupied at different times the positions of both Ambassador to the UN and Secretary of Energy. The latter position involves a lot of oversight over the country’s nuclear arsenals. I am really delighted that he has adopted the clear and persuasive position that I read there.
But how about the two Democratic front-runners, and how about the main Republican candidates for president?
With a fairly rapid search, I have been unable to find any noteworthy statements any of those others have made on the topic of real nuclear disarmament (i.e., including by our side), as such.
If any of you readers out there can find good records of these other candidates’ positions on the topic, could you post a link to it here? Thanks!
Also, another point. When citizens or journos get a chance to ask questions of all these candidates in the weeks ahead, shouldn’t we all be asking them some very well-phrased questions about the need for “all-points” nuclear disarmament?

Swiss-American prof urges attack on Iran

Louis-René Beres, a professor who teaches international law at
Purdue University (but not in a law school there) had a very warmongery
op-ed piece
in yesterday’s Christian Science
Monitor
, titled The
case for strikes against Iran:
Diplomacy alone won’t stop Iran’s
nuclear ambitions
.

Beres has been a pro-Israeli ultra-hawk on nuclear issues for a long time. I came across his name when I was
first researching Israel’s massive and already very “mature”
nuclear-weapons program back in the 1980s.  (See, for example,
footnote 6 in this
(be aware: that’s a large PDF file there)
1988 article of mine
titled Israel’s Nuclear Game: The
U.S. Stake
.)

Well, Beres is stilll going strong. In 2003-04 he was Chair of
something called the “Project
Daniel Group
that gave strategic advice about nuclear issues to PM
Sharon.  E.g., this:

The Group recommended to the Prime
Minister that “Israel must
identify explicitly and early on that all enemy Arab states and Iran
are subject to massive Israeli reprisal in the event of a BN
[Biological or Nuclear] attack
upon Israel” We recommended further that “massive” reprisals be
targeted at between 10 and 20 large enemy cities…and that the
nuclear yields of such Israeli reprisals be in
the megaton-range
. It goes without saying that such deterrent
threats
by Israel would be very compelling to all rational enemies, but — at
the same time — would likely have little or no effect upon irrational
ones. In the case of irrational adversaries, Israel`s only hope for
safety will likely lie in appropriate acts of preemption — defensive
acts to be discussed more fully in the next column of my ongoing
Project Daniel series.

A policy of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) which was obtained
between the United States and the Soviet Union, would never work
between Israel and its Arab/Iranian enemies. Rather, the Project Daniel
Group recommended that Israel MUST prevent its enemies from acquiring
BN status, and that any notion of BN “parity” between Israel and its
enemies would be intolerable…

So anyway, I thought it might be helpful for me to annotate Beres’s
recent piece in the CSM:

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