Focal Points Blog

Would Attacking Iran Really Make It More Determined to Build Nukes?

I’m one of those progressives who concedes that sometimes conservatives get the facts on the ground straight. (Their conclusions, almost never.) At the Tablet, Lee Smith of that redoubt of conservatism, the Weekly Standard, writes:

Amid all the different theories concerning the Iran plot … it is perhaps most useful to look at this recent effort as the final test Iran will face before it gets a nuclear weapon. [Emphasis added.]

At first I wasn’t sure exactly what point Smith was trying to make. After reading the paragraph over a couple of times, I realized that what he meant by what’s italicized is: “the final test that the United States will face before it likely fails to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapons.” I hadn’t seen that sentiment expressed before. Smith continues:

Seen this way, it is clear that the White House wouldn’t want to highlight Israel’s spot in Iran’s crosshairs, because no matter how many times President Barack Obama tells Israeli officials and Jewish audiences that an Iranian nuclear bomb would be unacceptable, his administration’s real policy position has just been exposed.

Said policy, which involves just calling

… for more sanctions against Tehran in response to an operation intended to slaughter hundreds of American allies [as well as Americans] makes it clear to everyone, especially the Iranians, that Washington isn’t going to do anything serious about stopping Iran’s nuclear-weapons program.

Why isn’t it? Here, Smith’s opinion is nothing you haven’t heard before.

The problem is that Obama’s White House, like George W. Bush’s, fears that taking too active a role against Iran and its assets will put U.S. military personnel at risk of Iranian retaliation in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He then arrives at another novel (to me, anyway) insight.

That means that American strategists … no longer consider the U.S. military a deterrent to Iranian actions; rather, the presence of American troops in theaters where the Iranians also operate has effectively deterred the United States from taking action against Tehran.

The irony Smith has unearthed is undeniable. He sticks the knife in and twists.

U.S. involvement in the Middle East and Washington’s policy of not confronting Iran about its openly aggressive behavior have created a situation in which our troops are now effectively being held hostage, a situation that Iran underlines with each new act of aggression and terror.

There’s nothing for it then but for either the United States or Israel to attack Iran, right? If you’re disposed to consider that an option, consider first a policy brief based on an article in the Summer 2011 issue of International Security. Author Malfrid Braut-Hegghammer points out one of the issues with a preemptive attack.

The legitimacy and consequences of the 1981 [Israeli attack on Iraq’s Osirak reactor] remain in dispute. Advocates argue that it was a preemptive attack and therefore permitted under international law. Critics claim that, as a research reactor, Osirak did not constitute an acute proliferation risk. … Recent evidence confirms that [it] was intended not to produce plutonium for a weapons program, but rather to develop know-how … for large-scale production of plutonium.

As you can see, the first problem was confirming that the target represented more than a threat in the distant future. As for the second problem

Israel’s attack triggered a far more focused and determined Iraqi effort to acquire nuclear weapons. When the program was interrupted by the 1991 Gulf War, Iraq stood on the threshold of acquiring a nuclear weapons capability.

Ms. Braut-Hegghammer proceeds to speculate about the conditions under which a state might respond to an attack by resolving to bring its nuclear-weapons program to fruition.

Generalizing about the effects of attacking nuclear infrastructure is a difficult task. … A plausible hypothesis, however, is that the distribution of probable outcomes resembles a bell curve. At one end, states with minimal nuclear infrastructure may present a smaller proliferation risk [after its nuclear facilities have been attacked] because of the increased costs of developing a nuclear weapons capability. In the middle section, attacks on states that are moving toward completion of the fuel cycle may produce more mixed outcomes. On the one hand, developing a domestic nuclear weapons capacity will be more costly following the destruction of key sites. [On the other] attacks, however, may create a domestic incentive to build a deterrent to avoid similar strikes in the future. … At the other end of the curve, attacks on states that have mastered the complete nuclear fuel cycle may increase the risk of proliferation.

As for states such as Iran

… which are capable of producing fissile material but seem to lack elite consensus to proceed with a nuclear weapons program, an attack could accelerate acquisition of a nuclear weapon.

Does Kim Need to Keep His Nukes to Avoid Gaddafi’s Fate?

You’re no doubt familiar with the notion that nuclear weapon states will be loath to give up their nuclear weapons — and those that seek them their aspirations — since Moammar Gaddafi forfeited his nuclear-weapons program. Choosing to go deterrent-free, he ended up regime-free as well.

At the Atlantic, Mira Rapp-Hooper and Kenneth N. Waltz weighed in on this.

No doubt understanding that his regime and his own survival are under constant threat, Kim [Jong-il] has been quite unwilling to disarm. The last two decades have provided him with numerous cautionary tales of dictatorships defeated — the Iraqi army was trounce-ed in 1991, NATO triumphed over Milosevic in 1999, and the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003. And just this March, as NATO operations in Libya began, a North Korean spokesperson announced the lesson that Kim’s regime had learned: “It has been shown to the corners of the earth that Libya’s giving up its nuclear arms. … was used as an invasion tactic to disarm the country.” … The Dear Leader has probably learned through careful observation that the only true security guarantee for a fragile autocracy … may be a nuclear arsenal.

Eli Jacobs, a research intern for the Project on Nuclear Issues of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, has the temerity to respond to Rapp-Hooper and Waltz. Bear in mind that the elderly Waltz actually founded a school of international relations who has written extensively on nuclear weapons (to which he’s not necessarily opposed). For example, he’s written:

The like­lihood of war decreases as deterrent and defensive capabilities increase. Nuclear weapons, responsibly used, make wars hard to start. Nations that have nuclear weapons have strong incentives to use them responsibly. These statements hold for small as for big nuclear powers. Because they do, the measured spread of nuclear weapons is more to be welcomed than feared. [Emphasis added.]

Just as long as it’s measured! According to Jacobs, though, Kim Jong-il doesn’t even need that excuse to keep nuclear weapons.

North Korea was not going to give up its nuclear weapons in any case. The conclusion that a nuclear capability bolsters the regime’s security seems to be a long-term guiding principle of Kim Jong-il’s security policy. Further, forsaking nuclear weapons now will jeopardize the regime’s attempts to bolster the military credentials of Kim Jong-un, Kim Jong-il’s son and successor.

But the crux of Jacobs’s argument though is that nuclear weapons are not needed to deter regime change. In fact

… conventional forces alone can often do the trick. For example, Iran’s geography and North Korea’s massive army would, combined with other non-nuclear factors, likely deter regime change pursued by military means.

Third, [the] repressive regimes of Hussein and Qaddafi were, above all, weak. Indeed, Kaddafi did not trade away a military capability anywhere near that currently possessed by the DPRK.

Besides, he adds, “a deliverable Libyan nuke was years away.” Meanwhile, I recently wrote:

If Kim is taking the wrong lesson from this, so are we in being selective about which states we condemn for their nuclear proliferation. It’s as if they’re subject to an unwritten sanity or rationality index. Naturally, no U.S. allies that have developed nuclear weapons since the nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty came into force, such as Israel or India, score low on that index, however imaginary. Pakistan’s rating, however, as it fails to pursue Islamic militants and with concerns arising about the security of its nuclear weapons program, is falling at a steady rate. Of course, North Korea, Iran, and Syria occupy the bottom of the index.

In the end, the power (or will) of the United States to prevent a despot from assuming control of a small nation is limited. But it can still demonstrate, as the NPT calls for, substantive disarmament leadership. Though this may not inspire the new ruler to refrain from proliferating, it will lower the national-security stakes for him.

An Arab Spring in Burma Requires Alliance Between Armed and Nonviolent Resistance

Aung San Suu Kyi

Aung San Suu Kyi

In the Ten-Year Review of Dictator Watch, his invaluable site dedicated to rolling back the repression of Burma’s military regime, Roland Watson presents a tactful, nuanced appraisal of the Nobel laureate who is the leader of Burma’s pro-democracy movement.

“Daw [Mrs.] Suu is the moral leader of Burma, and here through her sacrifice and courage she has set a shining example. … Daw Suu has said that Burma requires a Spiritual Revolution [and] that there should be no fighting — she has never offered any positive reinforcement to the armed struggle of the ethnic nationalities, even though acknowledging specific and widely publicized Burma Army atrocities against them. [But] she should understand that her silence has the effect of de-legitimizing their struggle. … This puts the people of Burma in a difficult situation. Should the ethnic groups fight or not? Their people are being attacked, so they have to fight, but Daw Suu apparently does not agree.

… It is not good enough to tell the people to wait. There is a terrible cost to this. More ethnic villagers will be killed or lose their livelihoods; more ethnic resistance — and Tatmadaw [Burma’s army] — soldiers will lose their lives. … Even with a position of non-violence, Daw Suu should confer with representatives of the ethnic nationalities. … By talking together now, not only can they unearth opportunities to push for freedom, they will be building a pattern of cooperation for when Burma is democratic.

The view of Watson and Dictator Watch is

… that strategy for the Burma pro-democracy movement is relatively simple, albeit complex to implement. The movement has two arms, non-violent protestors and ethnic rebels. But, rather than opposing each other, they can instead complement and work together.

Watson concludes:

If the people start protesting, and the ethnic groups launch offensive operations wherever and whenever possible, the regime will not be able to handle it.

The Irish Election: From Paramilitary to Presidential Nominee

Martin McGuiness, now running for the presidency in the Republic of Ireland, is a self-touted former IRA member. Most recently he stated in a debate that “I was in the IRA. I joined the IRA as a result of a conflict that broke out on the streets of Derry when I was 18 years of age.” McGuinness has even admitted on numerous occasions that he was a leading member of the IRA Army Council in Derry from 1970 until 1974, having been arrested on two separate occasions for membership in the organization. After being released from jail for the second time, McGuiness left the IRA to take on a more active role as a politician in Sinn Fein, the political wing of the IRA. Since that time McGuinness has played a crucial role in the various Irish peace accords, eventually helping to implement the Good Friday Agreement, and later forge the power sharing government that has come to govern in the North. Since 2007, McGuinness has been the deputy first minister of Northern Ireland.

The position of presidency in the Republic of Ireland is largely ceremonial, as most power resides with the Taoiseach or prime minister. That a self-proclaimed ex-member of the IRA could secure a nomination in the Oireachtas, the Irish Parliament, however, is an important sign of how far Ireland has transformed itself. In the most recent polls McGuinness has claimed 20 percent of the vote, on par with former frontrunner Sean Gallagher who is running as an independent. Only Michael Higgins of Labour has garnered more support than these two in the most recent poll, claiming around 38 percent of the vote. This unpredicted turn of events, and rather impressive numbers in support of an individual who has never run for an elected position in the South, demonstrates the full embrace of democracy by the Irish people, and by an individual once vehemently committed to an armed struggle.

McGuinness has faced his fare share of scrutiny in the run up to the election. He has on numerous occasions been forced to account for his membership in the IRA, most notably in a recent prime time debate on RTE. McGunniess has also at times been confronted by the relatives of those killed during the troubles, often in rather public settings. However save for rival nominee Gay Mitchell who has been outspoken in his criticism of McGuiness’ IRA past, other candidates have said they respect the democratic process and the nomination of McGuinness by the Oireachtas to run for president.

McGuinness has largely been running on a personality platform, appealing to voters as “the Peoples President.” However, McGuinness has also been quick to playon the palpable anger of the Irish people over the government’s handling of the economy and the more general resentment of corporate greed. He has emphasized the ant-establishment nature of Sinn Fein as well as his position as an outsider in Dublin politics. Although the president of Ireland would have little power to implement governmental changes, McGuinness has said he would support the establishment of a new commission to look into job creation, noting the amount of U.S. investment the North was able to attract over the past years.

Although McGuiness remains a firm supporter of the eventual reunification of Ireland, there is little evidence to suggest that his election would culminate in little more than a “triumph for the politics of ’united Irelandism’ in a symbolic sense.” The recent Eurozone crisis, which helped reinforce the UK’s commitment to the pound, has helped to maintain an economic wall between the North and the Republic, creating a large obstacle for any unification plans. McGuinness has also pledged to achieve unification through strictly democratic means, indicating that the Unionist population in the North would have to support any moves towards unification. The symbolic high point of a McGuinness presidency would be his presence as the head of state during the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising, which led to the eventual formation of the Republic.

McGuiness has worked hard to assuage doubts that he would be a divise presence as president. He has noted that he would have no qualms over hosting the Queen of England, who visited the Republic of Ireland last year and was met by a boycott by the Sinn Fein delegation in the South. McGuinness has also been keen to highlight his political career in the North. As he stated in a recent debate, “I have unified people along with Ian Paisly and Peter Robinson in favor of peace, against violence…” If anything it is that commitment for unity, and reconciliation that we should all try and reciprocate.

McGuinness is still a resident of the North. So, unlike most candidates around the world, he will be unable to vote for himself in the election that will be held on October 27.

Afghanistan: To Soothe the Militant Mind

Among the many unlikely elements in a Wall Street Journal article yesterday (October 26):

Vice Adm. Robert Harward, a U.S. Navy SEAL and yoga practitioner who until recently. … headed Task Force 435, a coalition unit that oversees detention facilities housing Afghan insurgents, including the major center at Bagram.

Yoga and Bagram? That’s enough to induce a bad case of cognitive dissonance. Also unusual is the heights of cleverness that the Wall Street Journal attained with the title for the article by Don Nissenbaum: For This Yogi, Afghan Peace Plan Needs More Downward Dog.

But most unlikely is the central story itself. Former “super model” Cameron Alborzian, who is now an “enlightened guide who would come to your home and serve as a live-in guru reportedly for up to $30,000 per week”

… sat down with Maj. Gen. Phil Jones at the U.S.-led coalition headquarters in Kabul this past summer to discuss a novel way to persuade Afghan insurgents to lay down arms. … Mr. Alborzian presented a bold plan to the British general who oversaw the coalition’s effort to lure Taliban fighters from the battlefield: Afghan militants should join Western troops in meditation and yoga, embracing a new spirit of brotherly unity.

With considerably less cleverness than the title of the piece, Nissenbaum writes that Alborzian’s “message of peace may seem kooky.”

But it has been persuasive enough to get meetings for Mr. Alborzian and his project’s Kabul-based representative with senior coalition officers, Afghan ministers and even a onetime insurgent leader. The project also won a sympathetic hearing from Vice Adm. Robert Harward. … And it has opened doors at Afghan prisons, where [Alborzian and his Kabul-based representative] have taught guards at detention centers to do basic, nonreligious Ayurvedic yoga poses. The pair say they have secretly taught a former Taliban commander how to meditate and soothe his militant mind.

After pointing out that to some Muslims this pollutes Islam with Hindu practices, Nissenbaum presents yet more qualified approval of Alborzian’s plan in an article that, despite its platform, is generally complimentary. Apparently states are beginning to realize that convening representatives of religions such as Christianity, Judaism, and Islam can pave the way for détente among warring factions. Canada has been at the forefront of this (hope to post on this as I accumulate more information).

Meanwhile, as we see often in business, it’s often those who are constitutionally unable of focusing on the downside — men and women of all ages who are eternally hopeful to the point of naivete or in denial that they’ll be denied — who succeed with their dreams. His status as a $30,000-a-week yogi coach to the stars aside, more power to Cameron Alborzian and those assisting him.

Yet Another Excuse for the Military to Favor Drones

I can’t remember where I read this last week, thus no link to back it up. But a reporter who struck me as credible made the statement that the U.S. military is initiating no new aviation programs outside of drones. Sounds like the kind of generalization that’s just waiting to be shot down. Nevertheless, one can imagine that becoming the case in the not-too-distant future.

At Danger Room, David Axe provides us with an indication why:

Orders grounding the Air Force’s F-22 Raptor stealth fighter spread from Virginia to Alaska last week, briefly sidelining up to half of the roughly 170 Raptors. It’s becoming clearer by the day that the problems vexing America’s premier stealth fighter are neither minor nor temporary.

The current lock-down echoes a fleet-wide grounding between May and September that was prompted by a suspected flaw in the $150-million-a-copy jet’s on-board oxygen-generating system. Pilots had reported mid-flight blackouts and disorientation, possibly resulting from too much nitrogen in their air mix.

As a result “the Air Force’s increasingly out-of-practice F-22 pilots enjoyed just a few weeks of refresher training before an incident in the skies over Virginia prompted the latest stand-down. … With investigators still flummoxed and pilots still blacking out, it’s a safe bet that the stealth fighters — and their pilots — will be spending a lot of time on the ground for the foreseeable future.

In an update to his post, Axe informs us that the F-22s have since been cleared for takeoff again. “But the oxygen problem remains unresolved — and could easily prompt another grounding at any time.”

Let’s hope that none of those groundings come in the form of an F-22 turned lawn dart. Meanwhile, these types of problems — with neither the aircraft or its rusty pilots truly airworthy — are yet another excuse for the military to requisition more drones. Would that drones represented a movement towards a less belligerent foreign policy, but alas, in that regard, it’s but a lateral move.

When a Clandestine Nuclear Program Is Good News

The United States is selective about which states engaging in nuclear proliferation that it condemns. It’s as if they’re subject to an unwritten sanity or rationality index. Naturally, no U.S. allies that have developed nuclear weapons since the nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty came into force, such as Israel or India, score low on that index, however imaginary. Pakistan’s rating, however, as it fails to pursue Islamic militants and with concerns arising about the security of its nuclear weapons program, is falling at a steady rate. Of course, North Korea, Iran, and Syria occupy the bottom of the index.

Meanwhile the leaders of another state are less questionable because of their sanity and rationality than because of a lack of concern for their people that’s comparable to that of Kim Jong-il. Indications are that Burma is in the early stages of a nuclear-weapons program. Roland Watson runs the invaluable website Dictator Watch, devoted, for the most part, to activism on behalf of the people of Burma. In August of last year, he wrote (no link available):

In June, we published lists of 660 Burma military officers who in 2009 began masters or doctoral programs in Russia at fourteen different technical universities. [Of that class] 111 were directly assigned to the SPDC’s nuclear project. … (Nuclear, Tunnel, Computer, etc.). … this is conclusive evidence that the SPDC has a clandestine nuclear program, and that it lied to the International Atomic Energy Agency when it said that it did not.

We have now received additional hard documentation about the nuclear program: A construction status report, building plan, and maps, of … Thabeikkyin … which is believed to be the center of the overall program. [The documents] describe a facility for upwards of five hundred personnel, but which also envisioned a potential ten-fold expansion. … Our initial intel about Thabeikkyin (also from 2006) said that there was a uranium milling facility associated with the operation, and which Jane’s Intelligence has now prospectively identified. … We can also comment that the use of a secret mountain site for uranium enrichment parallels the actions of both Iran and North Korea.

Oddly enough, Watson sees benefits to not only discovering the nuclear program early — well, five years on — but to the actual existence of such a program. In fact, in his recent Ten-Year Review of Dictator Watch he explains why it might be good news that Burma has taken its first steps toward a nuclear weapons program. (Emphasis added.)

We and others had argued for years that the regime’s brutality and its humanitarian consequences constitute an international threat to security and peace, and that the IC [International Community] therefore had an obligation to intervene, including under the United Nation’s recognized Responsibility to Protect. All such arguments were derided by the regime’s Security Council protectors, China and Russia.

Therefore, it was in a sense a huge break when we learned of the existence of the clandestine nuclear and missile programs. Surely, the International Community would respond to them.

Unfortunately, learning about the programs wasn’t as helpful as it seemed in not only drawing attention to human rights abuses in Burma but in focusing attention on its nascent nukes. Watson:

I am certain that Western Intelligence, particularly U.S. Intelligence, knows a lot more as well [as Dictator Watch]. Under the provisions of the 2008 Tom Lantos JADE Act, the U.S. is required to disclose what it knows in the form of a Report on Military and Intelligence Aid.

But, Watson writes, “I guess I was naïve.” The United States “refused to publish the report. We therefore filed a Freedom of Information Act request, in April 2010, which too has been ignored.”

Why is the United States dragging its feet? Watson again.

It is ironic, to say the least, that for the lack of a little funding we cannot conclusively prove the existence of a major threat to world security. Of course, from the perspective of the West, this is a good thing. If we do ever get the goods on Burma’s nuclear ambitions, a real smoking gun, it will be forced to respond.

Among other things, if the United States pressured Burma it would be at odd with India and China, both of which trade with Burma. Once again, a nascent nuclear-weapons program is used as an implement with which to bludgeon states when it serves our purpose such as Iran. But when dealing with it puts the United States at odds with states that it doesn’t wish to alienate (further, in the case of China), it’s all too willing to turn a blind eye to its nuclear program. Burma no doubt banks on that.

To the U.S. Government, UFOs Are a Threat to Its Sovereign Rule

Governments react to reports of UFOs, or UAPs (unidentified aerial phenomena) as the military in Europe are inclined to call them, with a wide range of responses. For instance, France and Belgium encourage reports by civilian witnesses and conducts official investigations. At the other extreme, the United States follows a policy that, in her 2010 book UFOs: Generals, Pilots, and Government Officials Go on the Record (Three Rivers Press), Leslie Kean calls the UFO taboo.

The U.S. government neither encourages reporting, not exhibits any interest in investigating and providing credible answers to the public. (Of course, the military investigates for its own purposes.) It inflicts a particularly childish form of denial on the public despite the vast number of Americans who have witnessed three-dimensional objects that fly at thousands of miles and hours and pivot on a dime. As a result, voices of witnesses are silenced and pens of establishment journalists stilled for fear of marginalization at the least and stigmatization at the worst.

One chapter of Kean’s book is devoted to the work of Alexander Wendt and Raymond Duvall, two brave social scientists who, in 2008, were, by Kean’s estimation, the first to treat an element of the UFO phenomenon in a scholarly journal. Appearing in Political Theory, Sovereignty and the UFO is the result of Wendt and Duvall’s attempts to discover why a government such as the United States won’t touch UFOs, at least for public consumption, with a ten-foot pole. I’m currently reading the paper, but excerpts from the chapter they wrote for Kean’s book follow.

The inability to see clearly and talk rationally about UFOs seems to be a symptom of authoritative anxiety [over a threat that] is threefold. On the most obvious level, acceptance of the possibility that … an unknown, very powerful “other” might actually exist, represents a potential physical threat. [The] possibility of colonization or even extermination [thus calls] into question the state’s ability to protect its citizens from such an invasion. Second, governments may also be reacting to the possibility that a confirmation of extraterrestrial presence would create tremendous pressure for a [oh, no, not that! — Ed.] world government, which today’s territorial states would be loath to form. … Anything that required subsuming [the difference between states] into a global sovereignty would threaten the fundamental structure of these states.

The final reason may be even more primal than the first two. (Emphasis added.)

Third, however, and in our view most important, the extraterrestrial possibility calls into question what we call the anthropocentric nature of modern sovereignty. By this we mean that, in the modern world, political organization everywhere is based on the assumption that only human beings have the ability and authority to govern and determine our collective fate. … Such anthropocentrism, or human-centeredness, is a modern assumption, one less common in prehistoric and ancient times, when Nature or the gods were considered more powerful than human beings and thought to rule.

Significantly, it is on this anthropocentric basis that modern states are able to command exceptional loyalty and resources from their subjects. [The] UFO phenomenon. … raises the possibility of something analogous to the materialization of God, as in the Christians’ “Second Coming.” To whom would people [then] give their loyalty?

Thus

… an authoritative taboo on the UFO is functionally necessary for rule to be sustained in its present form. … There is therefore nothing for the sovereign [state] to do but turn away its gaze — to ignore, and hence be ignorant of the UFO — and make no decision at all.

In other words, Wendt and Duvall write, the UFO taboo “is a functional imperative of modern, anthropocentric rule.”

Just as we suspected, UFOs may be a threat to the rule of man.

Gaddafi Took Knowledge of Where Bodies Were Buried to the Grave

When cable television gets around to retelling the last hours of the life of Moammar Gadhafi, it could be titled “The Man Who Knew Too Much”, or maybe “Why He Had to Go.” In all the speculation about why the late Libyan ruler was assassinated, it seems strange that media commentators would not at least speculate that it was because more than a few world governments and leaders would not want to have risked his shooting off his mouth in a trial. He knew where a lot of bodies were buried and he took that knowledge with him to the grave. A sigh of relief undoubtedly went up in transatlantic capitals when his captors closed the lid on the supermarket freezer where they had stashed his corpse.

“Gadhafi would have been a most inconvenient guest of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, as he would have relished recalling all the hand-kissing, the warm embraces and the juicy deals the West was begging to clinch after he was promoted from ‘Mad Dog’ (Ronald Reagan) to ‘our bastard,’” wrote Pepe Escobar in the Asia Times October 21. “He would also relish detailing all the shady backgrounds of those opportunists now posing as ‘revolutionaries’ and ‘democrats’.”

As of this writing there are several competing versions as how Gadhafi met his end. Clearly, it was not the forces of the rebel National Transitional Council that brought him down. The French are claiming it was their jets that halted his 80-car convoy of fleeing loyalists; the U.S. is crediting its drones. Probably when it is all sorted out there will be an official version of the incident. However, the German magazine Spiegel suggested it “remains doubtful that an independent investigation into the cause of his death will ever be undertaken.” That should only increase the suspicion that from the time U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton arrived in Tripoli October 18 and said, “”We hope he will be captured or killed soon” the latter outcome would become more likely than the former.

“The end of the Gadhafi era is a reason to celebrate in the region—for most, at least,” said the German newspaper Berliner Zeitung October 21. “For some, though, like (Syria’s) Bashar Assad and (Yemen’s) Abdullah Saleh and other old-school Arab leaders still in power, Thursday marked a black day. It made clear that the end is near for them.”

“Of course, regrets will also be expressed,” the paper went on. “Many wanted to bring him to trial, either at the International Criminal Court or before a Libyan court. They would also have liked to see those who helped him throughout the years in court too. That included both his Libyan supporters, but also those in Europe and the United States. The relationships in recent years had become increasingly intimate and the criticism of his ruling style ever quieter. Certainly some interesting things about European politics would have come to light. It is too bad this can’t happen, but there is also a positive side: An imprisoned Gadhafi would certainly not have missed a single opportunity to create further unrest and confusion.”

“Gadhafi’s era is irreversibly finished,” said the German Die Tageszeitung. “That is certain. But will democracy prevail in Libya? We’ll have to wait and see. Much suggests that this question isn’t very important to the NATO countries, which helped along the change in power. As long as it appeared to be opportune for them, they accepted and armed both Gadhafi and Saddam Hussein as allies. As soon as it no longer appeared opportune to them, they began pointing out the — indisputably — disastrous human rights records of both leaders. They could always count on one thing though: The public at home would accept any change of course because, at the end of the day, they weren’t terribly interested in what was going on in far-away countries.

“The idea that Libya has been ‘liberated’ because the West has unflinchingly pushed for adherence to human rights is absolute nonsense.”

On October 20, Reuters correspondent Peter Apps wrote from London, “Moammar Gadhafi’s apparent death from wounds received during the fall of Sirte means a long and complex trial that could have divided Libya and embarrassed Western governments and oil firms will be avoided.”

App’s dispatch – which as far as I can tell received almost no play in major media in the U.S. or Europe – went on, “Had he been taken alive, there would have been potentially acrimonious debate over whether he should be tried in Libya or extradited to the International Criminal Court, which issued a warrant for his arrest, along with his oldest son and spy chief earlier this year.

“Any trial might have given the flamboyant, often idiosyncratic Gadhafi a podium from which to harangue both Libya’s new rulers and Western powers, as well as potentially try to embarrass them on issues they would rather forget. As Libya was nudged back from international isolation in the last decade, international oil companies signed deals worth billions.”

Apps wrote that “analysts” to whom he had spoken said “worse still for the transitional government and NATO” would have been for the late Libyan leader to have “remained at large, perhaps simply disappearing into the Sahara to form new militias and destabilize Libya and its neighbors.”

“It is hugely symbolically important,” Alan Fraser, Middle East analyst for risk consultancy AKE,” told Apps. “It helps the NTC move on. If Gadhafi has been killed instead of captured, that means they will also avoid a long drawn out trial that could have been very divisive and revealed awkward secrets.”

“International media would have jumped on any juicy details on how Western states wooed Gadhafi, helped bank his billions and rebuild his oil industry. Many large firms struck deals with Tripoli including Italy’s ENI, France’s Total, Britain’s BP and others,” concluded Apps’ report.

Carl Bloice, a member of the National Coordinating Committee of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism, is a columnist for the Black Commentator. He also serves on its editorial board.

More Isn’t Necessarily Better With Pakistan’s “Nuclear Security Culture”

“Pakistan plans to train over 8,000 personnel to augment the capability of a military unit tasked with securing [its] nuclear arsenal,” reports Rezaul Laskar of Press Trust of India. One can be forgiven if one reacts thusly: more opportunities for extremist Islamists to infiltrate Pakistan’s nuclear-weapons program and steal away with a nuke.

As Qaiser Farooq writes at the Washington Times:

The primary concern of Westerners is that with a strong Taliban presence in Pakistan, [it] could take over the government … allowing terrorists to access nuclear weapons. … Fears may not be ungrounded.

He cites incidences of collusion between the Taliban and the Pakistan military such as this:

In May, Pakistani Taliban insurgents stormed the Naval Air Station in Karachi and destroyed two surveillance aircraft supplied by the US. According to CNN and other sources, they acted with inside information on the layout and security of the station.

And, less well-known, these:

In June, the Pakistani military announced that, a few days following the US operation to kill Osama Bin Laden, it had detained Brigadier General Ali Khan for alleged ties to Hizbul Tehrir … an Islamic militant group. Khan has spent 25 years in the military, serving with UN peace keepers in Bosnia.

Various media outlets report that Pakistan officials frequently warn militants in tribal areas of imminent attacks, giving the terror suspects time to flee.

Still, Laskar reports, officials said: “The effort to inculcate a ‘nuclear security culture’ is deeply rooted in the nuclear establishment.” In 2009, at Arms Control Today, Feroz Hassan Khan provided some background.

Nuclear security culture evolved in Pakistan after the September 11 attacks. Pakistan improved its supervisory procedure for military and scientific manpower. The security division of the SPD [Strategic Planning Directorate, which controls Pakistan’s nuclear weapons] established a reporting system for monitoring the movements of all officials. Two identical programs for employment security were created: the Personnel Reliability Program (PRP) and the Human Reliability Program (HRP), for military and civilian personnel, respectively. A security clearance system of annual, semiannual, and quarterly review was created. Counter Intelligence Teams were created to act as the daily eyes and ears of the SPD. Weekly, monthly, and quarterly reports for the security of all organizations are maintained by the SPD to prevent theft, loss, or accident.

But, confirming our fears about the added forces, Khan writes: “Simply adding more guards and security personnel will not suffice; Pakistan must constantly evaluate its system to detect potential failures.” In fact:

The security divisions of the SPD and intelligence services have layers of security and counterintelligence mechanisms for all sensitive sites. They are highly active and alert in updating, monitoring, and keeping a vigilant watch to detect and respond to any undesirable proclivities within the system.

Meanwhile, one wonders if the plans to train 8,000 new security personnel are, in part, intended to reassure the United States and render unnecessary any contingency plan its Joint Special Operations Command might have for attempting to seize Pakistan’s nuclear weapons in the event they appear vulnerable to Islamist extremist takeover.

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