Focal Points Blog

Failure to Factor Nuclear Close-Calls Into National Security Equation Threatens Us All

Nuclear warhead (British). Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Nuclear warhead (British). Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

As I posted recently, nuclear-weapons advocates forget to factor human error into their national-security equation. Command and Control, the new book by Eric Schlosser (Penguin Press) about nuclear close-calls (which I have not read) illustrates this clearly. A new example of sloppiness in the command and control of nuclear weapons has recently arisen regarding the Permissive Action Link (PAL), a security device for nuclear weapons intended to prevent unauthorized detonation. At Gizmodo, Karl Smallwood revisits a 2004 article by Bruce Blair, co-founder of Global Zero.
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Can Marvel Comics’s Latest Superhero Strike a Blow Against Islamophobia?

Kamala

Depending on your socio-political views, you may choose to agree or disagree with me when I say: Islamophobia is in the air. Be it the USA, UK or even Myanmar, there are a good number of people out there who view Muslims as a community that is troublesome and refuses to integrate. In the midst of all this, it was a pleasant thing to read when Marvel announced that the leading character in their new comic book series will be a Muslim girl.
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One of the Many Ways Nazis Shot Themselves in the Foot by Persecuting Jews

Albert Einstein and Robert Oppenheimer, director of the Manhattan Project. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Albert Einstein and Robert Oppenheimer, director of the Manhattan Project. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

There are many parallels between Hitler and Stalin. On the personal level, they both liked to conduct all-night meetings. On a more critical level, the purge of the Red Army command that Stalin carried out before World War II in order to consolidate his hold on power left the Red Army ill equipped to handle Hitler’s invasion.

While Hitler didn’t order his army command, aside from those who tried to assassinate him, executed, he regularly demoted generals (only later to often promote them again). As a self-styled military strategist prone to overruling his command, he regularly put the Wehrmacht in compromising positions. But while Stalin was able to overcome handicapping Russia at the start of the war, Hitler was not as lucky with another of his purges. In his classic The Second World War (Penguin 1990), which I just finished reading, John Keegan, the eminent ― and eminently readable ― British military historian who died last year, explains.
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Nuclear Weapons: the Siberia of Military Assignments

NuclearWarhead

Robert Burns of the Associated Press has been the lead dog on stories about “rot” in the U.S. nuclear force. Earlier in the year, he reported that the 91st Missile Wing at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota “earned the equivalent of a ‘D’ grade when tested on their mastery of [nuclear missile] launch operations using a simulator.” Subsequently, 17 officers and a commander were removed from duty.
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A Few Things Israel’s Government and Citizens Should Know

The Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

The Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

As the government of Israel casts itself once again in the role of a sole rational, realistic and honest player in the world’s latest theatrical production of “We, the Cynics”, it may be a good time to familiarize the government and people of Israel with a few basic, yet essential, facts of life:

1)   Israel is not free to operate as it wishes, and cannot attack Iran without major international or at least American support. Ranting and raving is fine as a venting vehicle, but anybody with a semblance of a brain in his/her head – hopefully within Israel’s government as well – knows that Israel – like it or not – is a vassal state. Its welfare and well-being, indeed, its very existence, depends on the good will of an increasingly shrinking number of countries, whose patience with Israel is thinning rather fast.
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India’s Dilemma: Accessing Central Asia’s Wealth

India-Kazakhstan map.jpgIn recent years, India has begun to recognize the strategic importance of Central Asia to its national interest. As a result, it has been eager to revive — and upgrade — some of its ancient historic and cultural ties which go back to the 16th century, when the great Mughal Empire was established in Delhi in 1526. Its founder, Babar, came from what is now the Central Asian state of Uzbekistan and was a convert to Islam. However, it is also relevant to note, given India’s current popularity in Central Asia, that prior to the adoption of Islam in the eighth century, Hinduism was one of the dominant faiths in the region. (There are now less than 150,000 Hindus in a region populated by more than 92 million people.  But vestiges of that ancient bond remain.)
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Iran-U.S. Nuclear Deal Signals a Gorbachev Moment for Rouhani

hassan-rouhani-moderate-nuclear-weapons-negotiations-general-assembly-obama

Iran President Hassan Rouhanai. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

So Iran and the United States reached a deal about the nuclear stuff recently. Thus far, I have read many opinions and analyses about this historic event: Israel calls it a mistake of gigantic proportions, US and Iran are claiming it to be a step in the right direction, the rest of the world is watching, commentators and experts are either happy or unhappy depending on their political stance, and so on.

As of now, it is too early to judge whether the nuclear deal between USA and Iran is a good thing to happen or a bad one. However, pros and cons aside, one thing is certain: with the new Rouhani government in place, the Islamic Republic is indeed headed towards some noticeable changes.
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COP19 Summit: Still Rich v. Poor

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

A few weeks ago, representatives from the “international community” met in Warsaw, Poland, to negotiate an agreement to tackle human-made climate change and its consequences for the world.

The outcome wasn’t as embarrassing as the failure four years ago in Copenhagen, but we’re still far from seeing any serious concerted action to keep climate change at a manageable level.
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Two Women, Catherine Ashton and Wendy Sherman, Key Shapers of Iran Deal

 

Catherine Ashton

Catherine Ashton

The Right Honorable Baroness Catherine Ashton of Upholland, daughter of a coal-mining father, single mom, and the first person in her family to go to college, climbed into a helicopter last August to visit the deposed President of Egypt, Mohammad Morsi, being held in a secret location. The first Representative for Foreign Affairs of the European Union, and a sophisticated Middle-East hand who had publicly declared her sympathy with the Palestinian cause, she was the only person from the West trusted by the Egyptians to meet with Morsi. Last weekend, “Cathy” Ashton was heralded as one of the top negotiators sealing the first-stage agreement on halting the Iranian nuclear weapons program.

About the same time Ashton was meeting with President Morsi, Wendy Sherman, the State Department’s Undersecretary for Political Affairs, was facing a difficult Senate briefing on Iran, in which she made some rude comments. A long-time Washington insider, lobbyist, Congressional staffer, and consultant, Sherman comes from a prominent Jewish family in upstate New York and is widely considered one of Israel’s most supportive high-level friends. At the same time, she is also known as an experienced and tough negotiator on nuclear issues, a “bad-ass” according to one CNN foreign affairs reporter. As Chief U.S. nuclear negotiator, she joined Ashton in the final talks in Geneva, heading the U.S. negotiating team for the last round.
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Netanyahu May Take Out His Frustration Over Iran Nuke Deal on Israel-Palestine Peace Talks

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

By now you’re all familiar with the provisional deal that the United States and Iran have agreed to about Iran’s nuclear energy program. As with anything like this, due to forces beyond the principals’ control, it’s always, at some level, a zero-sum control. In the New York Times, Mark Landler reports:

“The Palestinian issue is the big casualty of this deal,” said Bruce O. Riedel, a former administration official who is now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. “Now that they have an Iran deal, over the strong objections of Israel, it’s going to be very hard to persuade Netanyahu to do something on the Palestinian front.”
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