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Bloggingheads
04-06-2008, 01:47 PM

ohcomeon
04-06-2008, 02:50 PM
Fascinating. So the choices don't boil down to awful and worse.

rcocean
04-06-2008, 03:15 PM
Thanks for the great Diavlog. Most informative.

Just when I think BHTV has turned into a shallow left-wing funny farm(see Greenwald-Cox) you get a former UN ambassador.

Bravo!

piscivorous
04-06-2008, 04:48 PM
As Ambassador Pickering has stated this plan is nothing new. It is a conglomeration of three old ideas into one plan with a minor change. That being that only Iranian technology can be used.

First the EU3 have taken on the matter of negations with Iran and it is the EU3 that set the condition of no further talks until Iran ceased enriching Iran. So to have this occur we have to either kick our primary allies in Europe aside and act "unilaterally", an act the left is all to willing to decry unless they insist we do so, or leave them a means to save face while getting their acquiescence to scrap their resistance to unconditioned talks. Probably do able.

Second is the bit about an enrichment consortium. This idea and several similar proposals have been floating around for a couple of years now with very little if any interest displayed by the Iranians. The new twists of only allowing Iranian technology might add some value from the Iranian prospect of letting them continue to do their research and development and claim that pride that comes from doing something yourselves. Is it significantly different to get the Iranians to find it acceptable is anybody's guess.

The third part about very intrusive inspections is also probably doable as the Iranians have at one point accepted a more rigorous inspection regime than they are currently operating under; it was not intrusive enough to provide the level of comfort approaching certainty but one can envision the possibility.

bjkeefe
04-07-2008, 10:44 AM
pisc:

I think you're right about Ambassador Pickering's ideas not being new. However, I do think it is extremely helpful for him to have assembled these ideas into a framework that is comprehensible and to have published his proposals in areas where the less wonkish will see them. I echo look's sentiments: it's nice to be reminded that there is a plausible way forward that doesn't involve a choice between bad and worse.

I think the one of the biggest stumbling blocks to settling the Iranian nuclear question in particular, and dealing with non-proliferation issues in general, is the contingent in the US that is just as intransigent as anybody else. We have to face facts, some of which are:

1. We are no longer able to maintain monopoly or oligopoly status in the world as regards nuclear technology

2. It is reasonable for other countries who feel potentially threatened by us to feel doubly threatened by our own failure to cut back and cut down on weapons-related activities.

3. Given the near-certainty that nuclear power will play an ever-increasing role in providing energy, it is understandable why even oil-rich states want to acquires skills in this area starting now.

I think if the next US administration (and possibly the EU) is able to show better flexibility in these areas, and maybe even some unilateral movement on point 2, the Iranian government will be responsive.

Back closer to home: a shoutout to Mark for getting a good guest and for conduction a good interview.

bjkeefe
04-07-2008, 10:46 AM
Just when I think BHTV has turned into a shallow left-wing funny farm ...

Yes. We can haz gud jokez.

piscivorous
04-07-2008, 11:43 AM
pisc:
1. We are no longer able to maintain monopoly or oligopoly status in the world as regards nuclear technology Monopoly we lost that in 49. I understand that Dr. AQ Khan thought nuclear weapons were a market but I doubt that many others in the field. It is only in the top two players that have the ability to effect what the others do and only in the past world of MAD did it matter. We and the Russians have so much excess capacity, that what one of the minor players does or does not do is going to have effects on the playing field in general. If India decided to reduce it's arsenal it might have some effect on the Pakistani program but other than that zip.
pisc:
2. It is reasonable for other countries who feel potentially threatened by us to feel doubly threatened by our own failure to cut back and cut down on weapons-related activities.I don't see how our enemies feel threatened by our nuclear arsenal. If the last few years have shown anything it is we don't need nuclear weapons to destroy them if that is what we choose to do. Whether we choose to spend more or less money on nuclear weapons, to make new ones or to lower our total number, has little if any baring on the level of fear that certain countries around the world have for reason to feel threatened by us. While their own possession of nuclear may work to alleviate that fear level is an arguable point given our total nuclear capacity a few more or a few less bombs will not impact double or half their fear level.
pisc:
3. Given the near-certainty that nuclear power will play an ever-increasing role in providing energy, it is understandable why even oil-rich states want to acquires skills in this area starting now. Looks like your batting .333

bjkeefe
04-07-2008, 12:06 PM
pisc:

Regarding point 1: you're right, strictly speaking, that I should not have said "monopoly status." On the other hand, the US remains about the only country that can upgrade its nuclear weapons program without the rest of the world being able to put up an effective stink.

It is only in the top two players that have the ability to effect what the others do and only in the past world of MAD did it matter. We and the Russians have so much excess capacity, that what one of the minor players does or does not do is going to have effects on the playing field in general. If India decided to reduce it's arsenal it might have some effect on the Pakistani program but other than that zip.

I completely disagree with this. India and Pakistan affect each other, as you note. One Middle East country affects the others, for another example. North Korea affects China, South Korea, and Japan, for a third. And given how interconnected everyone is, all of these regional concerns have ripple effects worldwide.

I also think international pressure can affect individual countries. I'll concede that no one holds an absolute veto over another country's nuclear ambitions, but real pressures can be brought to bear, and the ambitious countries ignore this at their peril. South Africa is the most clear-cut example, but I don't think it's possible to argue against, for example, the idea that Iran and Iraq have backed away from what they might otherwise have done, absent international pressure.

Finally, all these concerns absolutely do matter in a post-MAD world. No one wants to risk even one nuclear weapon being used.

I don't see how our enemies feel threatened by our nuclear arsenal.

It's not just that we have an overwhelming arsenal. It's the mood that we create by continuing to expand it, and by indicating that we're not interested in working to reduce it. We also maintain an ongoing threat by continuing to refuse to make clear no-first-use pledges. This couples with the non-nuclear aspects of the threat, especially our recent image of looking for military "solutions" first.

piscivorous
04-07-2008, 01:13 PM
pisc:Regarding point 1: you're right, strictly speaking, that I should not have said "monopoly status." On the other hand, the US remains about the only country that can upgrade its nuclear weapons program without the rest of the world being able to put up an effective stink.Can you tel me the last time we "upgraded our nuclear weapons program." I must have slept through this event. Just look at the flack we are currently getting for just proposing such a diabolical thing.


pisc:
I completely disagree with this. India and Pakistan affect each other, as you note. One Middle East country affects the others, for another example. North Korea affects China, South Korea, and Japan, for a third. And given how interconnected everyone is, all of these regional concerns have ripple effects worldwide.

I also think international pressure can affect individual countries. I'll concede that no one holds an absolute veto over another country's nuclear ambitions, but real pressures can be brought to bear, and the ambitious countries ignore this at their peril. South Africa is the most clear-cut example, but I don't think it's possible to argue against, for example, the idea that Iran and Iraq have backed away from what they might otherwise have done, absent international pressure.

Finally, all these concerns absolutely do matter in a post-MAD world. No one wants to risk even one nuclear weapon being used. Thats great except your original point 2 was pisc:...
2. It is reasonable for other countries who feel potentially threatened by us to feel doubly threatened by our own failure to cut back and cut down on weapons-related activities. Yes regional actions by regional players have effects but in general these actors are immune to what we do at the margins. America, or for that matter Russia, is not the be all and cause all of nuclear proliferation.


pisc:
It's not just that we have an overwhelming arsenal. It's the mood that we create by continuing to expand it, and by indicating that we're not interested in working to reduce it. We also maintain an ongoing threat by continuing to refuse to make clear no-first-use pledges. This couples with the non-nuclear aspects of the threat, especially our recent image of looking for military "solutions" first. I must have been sleeping through this one too as my recollection is that US warhead count is still headed in a negative direction Global Nuclear Weapons Count (http://www.rense.com/general47/global.htm) The United States has produced some 70,000 warheads since 1945, of which, 60,000 have been dismantled (more than 12,000 of them since 1990). The U.S. arsenal contains approximately 10,600 intact warheads. Of this number, nearly 8,000 are considered active or operational.

bjkeefe
04-07-2008, 01:49 PM
pisc:

I don't want to get into a long debate about missile counts or other arcana. Some weapons are decommissioned simply because of age and for no other reason, and data concerning these are hard to separate out from missiles that are decommissioned in a true spirit of arms reduction.

I also don't want to get into a link duel, but in case you aren't aware of how others see things, you might glance at any or all of these:

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/07/washington/07nuke.html
http://www.ucsusa.org/global_security/nuclear_weapons/us-nuclear-weapons-policy-dangerous-and-counterproductive.html
http://www.globalresearch.ca/articles/CHO405A.html
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/02/world/02nations.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss

I will grant up front that the most recent Congress, starting in Jan 2007, has been able to slow or stall some of the programs the executive branch would like to fund and move forward. My overall point, however, is that the US continues to be perceived by many, worldwide, as having little or no interest in cutting back on its nuclear weapons program, and instead, seeks to enhance this program. Like it or not, perceptions do matter. There's a strong case to be made by anyone suspicious of the United States that we're being hypocritical in demanding that other nations halt their programs while we continue to do R&D on next-generation weapons and Star Wars-type antimissile programs.

piscivorous
04-07-2008, 02:38 PM
pisc:

I don't want to get into a long debate about missile counts or other arcana. Some weapons are decommissioned simply because of age and for no other reason, and data concerning these are hard to separate out from missiles that are decommissioned in a true spirit of arms reduction.

I also don't want to get into a link duel, but in case you aren't aware of how others see things, you might glance at any or all of these:

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/07/washington/07nuke.html
http://www.ucsusa.org/global_security/nuclear_weapons/us-nuclear-weapons-policy-dangerous-and-counterproductive.html
http://www.globalresearch.ca/articles/CHO405A.html
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/02/world/02nations.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss

I will grant up front that the most recent Congress, starting in Jan 2007, has been able to slow or stall some of the programs the executive branch would like to fund and move forward. My overall point, however, is that the US continues to be perceived by many, worldwide, as having little or no interest in cutting back on its nuclear weapons program, and instead, seeks to enhance this program. Like it or not, perceptions do matter. There's a strong case to be made by anyone suspicious of the United States that we're being hypocritical in demanding that other nations halt their programs while we continue to do R&D on next-generation weapons and Star Wars-type antimissile programs.

We are obviously arguing a little bit a cross purposes here as your comment include links to 4 articles that essentially make my points for me. The US nuclear arsenal is still shrinking, it hasn't be modernized in decades and there is plenty of flak being thrown around about modernizing it. You don't like the fact that arsenal is still so large, you don't like the fact that we are considering/talking about modernizing it and designing some mission specific warheads/bombs designed to accomplish what might be necessary tasks in a mean nasty world.

bjkeefe
04-07-2008, 04:09 PM
pisc:

I don't agree that we're talking at cross purposes. In fact, I think you did a good job characterizing our disagreement.

JIM3CH
04-08-2008, 11:04 AM
Ambassador Pickering made two arguments that I found troubling.

First, he recommends a unique inspection regime for Iran, like those used in Iraq. I strongly suspect that this would be a non-starter with Iran. The current NPT regime, if fully implemented in Iran, would be sufficient to provide the international community with assurance that Iran is not implementing a parallel weapons program. It would be much more productive to encourage Iran to ratify (so far they have only signed) the Additional Protocol to their safeguards agreement than trying to invent a unique inspection regime just for them.

Second, he stated that the world community should stop using plutonium in civil nuclear energy programs. This is disastrous advice as the future of nuclear energy production and waste control depends very much on the partitioning and transmutation of the minor actinides, of which plutonium is the main component. Only 5% of the available energy in LEU fuel assemblies is released in conventional thermal reactors. Use of the remaining 95% requires a strategy for production and burning of plutonium in different reactor designs. His concern is reminiscent of President Carter’s rejection of reprocessing technology (the Clinch River project) because he wanted to ‘set a good example’ for the world to follow. Well, the world didn’t follow that example. Japan has created an operational fuel cycle based upon utilization of plutonium and has proved that it is both economical and safe.