Thursday, September 06, 2001

Nuclear Madness Sweeps White House

To make the world safer.

That's the justification by the Bush administration for its missile defense shield. But, as is often the case with the Bushies, once they have a goal, they let no facts or logic stand in their way, even if they contradict the original motivation. So just how far is the White House willing to go to build support across the globe for its missile defense shield obsession? Further than any sane person would imagine.

This section doesn't require a retort. She merely insults the administration.

According to reports published over the weekend, the administration is prepared to wink at a Chinese nuclear buildup in exchange for China's acquiescence to Bush's Star Wars fantasy. So, to recap, to make the world more "safe," we're going to make the world less safe.

Simply put, this is what the Chinese are going to do regardless, we weren't terribly effective in cutting down the Soviet stockpiles either if you recall and we focused our entire apparatus on discouraging their ability to nuke us. The second sentence is a feeble attempt to say that the administration is acting like something out of Orwell, unfortunately, unlike Orwell she doesn't lay a foundation for the statement.

The timing is all the more important since Don Rumsfeld's Pentagon has authorized construction work to begin on a U.S. missile test site in Alaska. Coupled with the impending drilling in the Arctic refuge, it's beginning to look like Bush has it in for the 49th state. At least he hasn't yet announced plans to set fire to the place.

Of course the timing is important in the way that causes must come before effects. If you want to test a system, you have to build something to test. The non sequitor about the drilling is exactly that, a non sequitor. The statement about burning the place down is pure mindless hyperbole.

What's more, this bouquet of nuclear roses is being sent to the Chinese before the president arrives in Beijing for his first state visit there in October. After this latest move, they'll probably want to stuff him and put him on display next to Mao. "George W. Bush: hero of the Chinese nuclear program."

Again, the Chinese haven't consulted us in regards to their nuclear buildup thus far and they are unlikely to ask for our affirmation in the future. Apparently, Ms. Huffington gives Bush a lot of credit and thinks he runs China.

Even Republicans are aghast -- but not aghast enough. Arlen Specter, a leading Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, called the strategy to offset Chinese objections to the U.S. missile shield "much too soon." He should have called it "much too insane." How else would you describe igniting an arms race in Asia and ending a 30-year ban on nuclear testing?

Jer: First off, Republicans are not aghast. Secondly, if they were Arlen Specter wouldn't be the person to ask, that's like saying that liberals are upset and proving it with a quote from a Blue Dog Democrat. The second sentence is more hyperbole. The final sentence rests on the premise that missile defense is actually doing these things. It is not. China, Pakistan and India are building up their nuclear weapons in the exact same fashion that every other nation who gained the technology did. Finally, how in the world is this related to the 30-year ban on nuclear testing? Also, note that like many "multilateralists" she confuses a signed treaty with what nations actually do. Numerous nations have tested nukes since that ban and the ones who don't use supercomputer analysis that works better than the real thing. Currently a nuclear test has more to do with making a political statement and less to do with developing technology.

They must be smoking some potent ideological crack in the White House these days. One can only imagine the late-night binge that produced this latest bizarre result: "I got it," Rummy must have cried out. "China currently has fewer than two dozen miserable nukes. If this number is increased tenfold, and we make sure that we share whatever technology they need to make them top-of-the-line nukes, can't you just see how absolutely necessary our shield will be?" "It's brilliant," echoed W. "We overcome Chinese objections by letting them arm themselves to the teeth, and then we overcome domestic objections by sounding the alarm about the Chinese!"

This section, while riddled with hyperbole and personal invective, also relies on the contention that the driving force in nuclear proliferation is GW's attempt to build missile defense. Seeing as how we've never had missile defense and the world somehow got populated with all these nukes I think we can rule that out as the cause.

It's as if a condom maker were encouraging the spread of gonorrhea, hoping that, given time, it would spark demand. Part of the Bush team's Strangelovian strategy is an apparent determination to spread the nuclear plague across Asia. Otherwise, why has the administration decided to lift all sanctions on India, despite its refusal to halt nuclear weapons testing, curtail its own nuclear buildup, or stop flexing its nuclear muscles at Pakistan, yet another nuclear cowboy?

Does her logic imply that we should have sanctions on all nuclear powers? France has nukes, why aren't we sanctioning them, I would ask if I followed her logic. Also, it has never been shown that sanctions are very effective in getting nations to change their defense policy.

Maybe it's just a nuclear version of the concealed weapon law Bush signed in Texas. If everybody has nuclear weapons, we'll all be safer, right? From this coming chaos, so the thinking goes, rational demand for a panacea will emerge. But any student of the Cold War must conclude that we were damned lucky to survive that era without a nuclear shoot-out. Now imagine that instead of a bilateral face-off, the next cold war will be a nuclear free-for-all. Do you want to put your faith in George Bush and a pie-in-the sky defense system to keep you and yours safe during such a time? I sure don't.

First off, the Bush administration isn't pro-proliferation. It merely isn't into a bunch of bullshit that is ineffective and poses as anti-proliferation policy. Second, any student of the Cold War would not conclude we were damn lucky to make it out alive. Mutually assured destruction works quite well with rational agents. In fact, the whole argument against the missile shield is based on the belief in the efficacy of MAD. If you don't want a shield you are placing all of your eggs in the MAD basket. However, this efficacy is breaking down as smaller and smaller agents have access to cheaper and cheaper nuclear technologies.

What worked against Russia (and would work against China) might well not work against someone who does not care about the consequences of nuclear war. Hmmm, I don't suppose that any religious zealots or nations would fit this definition of smaller non-rational agents. The reason that MAD worked was that only large (and thereby inherently rationally oriented, you can't get large without a modicum of rationality) could afford the requisite technologies. Now many groups can and of these new groups many of them do not act as fitting MAD agents. Imagine that the technology required for a laptop computer was nuclear technology. Once the price of laptops starts falling as the processing power goes up you must refine your strategy to include people who could not afford it before.

National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, while denying the reports that the administration was dropping its objections to China's nuclear buildup, spoke resignedly about it. "There is a Chinese military buildup that has been going on for some time," she said as though there were nothing the administration could do about it. But in fact we have diplomatic carrots and superpower sticks aplenty when it comes to our relations with the Chinese -- free trade goodies to brandish, Olympic games to boycott, state visits to forgo.

Indeed Condi is right. Again, look to the example of the Soviets, we did all we could to fuck with them and they had quite an easy time making a bunch of missiles. As I noted earlier, all nations with access to nukes build them and make a decent number of them. Why? Nations try to act in their own best interest. Increasing power is in a nations best interest. Nukes increase power. Nations proliferate nukes. How remedial can you get, this isn't that complicated. Secondly, our best hope for neutralizing the Chinese threat is to liberalize them from within. Unlike the Soviets who we beat by outspending, the Chinese are adopting capitalism and our best hope is that it works. There aren't a hell of a lot of free market yet totalitarian regimes running around.

"We have told the Chinese," Rice added, "that the missile defense system is not aimed at them." Interesting. I was under the impression that a missile defense system isn't aimed at anyone, but intended to protect us from those aiming at us. Oh, well. As Nurse Ratched might have said, "There is no reasoning with these lunatics!"

This is so funny because it reminds me of when Andy Rooney recently said that George Bush was stupid because he said that the terrorists wouldn't have safe harbor in Afghanistan and isn't Bush dumb because the whole nation was landlocked. He later apologized when someone filled him in that safe harbor is metaphorical. Huffington is plain ignorant like Rooney. In just the same way that the countermeasures of a jet are based on the offensive capabilities of the missiles that are fired at it, so to will a missile shield be geared to specific technologies or offensive signatures if you will. Indeed, it is highly unlikely that we could build a useful shield against the Chinese regardless. Multiple warhead missiles and cheap decoys would probably allow a superpower to thwart most defensive mechanisms. Like most of warfare, offense is much easier in this regard.

As a matter of fact, it is this "our pants are still down for the Russians and the Chinese" reality that will retain the superpower deterrence aspect of MAD while gaining the defensive capability against smaller less rational agents. In all likelihood, our shield will also defend Russia and China. Further, I've seen news reports that the manufacture of the shield will be partially outsourced to the Russians. My prediction would be that the Russians will sign on once we give them a big enough outsourcing project in hard US currency.

And all of this is happening just after the presidents of China and Russia signed their first post-Soviet era "friendship treaty," centered on their belief in the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty as "the cornerstone of strategic stability."

Ms. Huffington isn't very bright if she thinks that there is a lot of historical affection between these nations. Second, its not too hard to see that Russia has been moving westward for awhile. Also, again, let us not confuse reality with treaties, if they want to negotiate on these matters with us it wouldn't make a heck of a lot of sense for them to weaken their positions before speaking with us. I'm going to go out on a limb here and predict that Russia and China make very few if any strategic alliances against us. I'd love to play poker against Ms. Huffington, you could bluff her all day.

Speaking of predictions, if I recall, a few "multilateralists" were concerned about Russia building more missiles because of our pulling out of the ABM, what they will actually do is cut about 3 to 4 thousand of them.

The time has come to ask: If launching a moon-shot scale defense project with less than a moon-shot likelihood of success means living in a world that's much more heavily armed with nuclear weapons, why are we doing it?

I'd rebut this but I have no idea what she is talking about with the moon-shot but I'd point to an earlier retort of mine challenging her to show how a missile shield (doesn't exist) is the driving force behind proliferation (does exist).

Ms. Huffington forgot to bring up the oddball canard of the briefcase nuke that could thwart this system. Good point in that we should be spending money to prevent that. However, that is not what this tool is for. If we followed this logic we would abandon our Army because they are not good at fighting out at sea.