Focal Points Blog

What Nobody Is Saying About the Cheating Missileers

Nuclear Missile Silo

Robert Burns of the Associated Press has been the point man on the ongoing story of the U.S. nuclear launch force’s shortcomings. In one recent development, “missileers” at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana are alleged to have cheated on a proficiency exam. Subsequently, reports Global Security Newswire, about half of them

… have had their launch certifications taken away and been pulled off alert duty.… Of the more than 90 launch officers currently implicated in the cheating scandal, 40 missileers were believed directly involved in the misconduct, which involved sharing exam answers by text message. Others allegedly tolerated or facilitated the incidents.
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Riding the U.S.-Iran Nuclear Rollercoaster

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, who received his PhD at the University of Denver’s Korbel School of International Studies, from which Ibrahim Kazerooni also received his PhD and where Rob Prince teaches. Image WikiMedia Commons

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, who received his PhD at the University of Denver’s Korbel School of International Studies, from which Ibrahim Kazerooni also received his PhD and where Rob Prince teaches. Image WikiMedia Commons

Cross-posted from the Colorado Progressive Jewish News.

The recent information on a short-term agreement in the Iranian nuclear issue is welcomed news that presents unique and unprecedented opportunities for all parties involved. The least we can hope at this stage is that there is an encouraging shift in the United State’s approach to the Iranian nuclear issue from the rigid ideological to a more realistic position. President Barack Obama’s commitment to veto any Congressional legislation that might intensify sanctions against Iran in the next six months is a refreshing development that helps add momentum to the success of these negotiations.

A brief history of how this saga began would be helpful in understanding the positions taken by all parties in these long and arduous negotiations.
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Ever Wonder Exactly Why the U.S. Keeps Israel’s Nuclear Secret?

Dimona nuclear reactor, 1968. Image Wikimedia Commons

Dimona nuclear reactor, 1968. Image Wikimedia Commons

In a piece titled The truth about Israel’s secret nuclear arsenal at the Guardian, Julian Borger writes about how Israel began its nuclear-weapons program.

The list of nations that secretly sold Israel the material and expertise to make nuclear warheads, or who turned a blind eye to its theft [more on that down-post ― RW], include today’s staunchest campaigners against proliferation: the US, France, Germany, Britain and even Norway.

Nor did Israel later have much in the way of

… qualms about proliferating nuclear weapons knowhow and materials, giving South Africa’s apartheid regime help in developing its own bomb in the 1970s in return for 600 tons of yellowcake.
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The Iran Nuclear Intelligence Well Was Poisoned From the Start

Arak nuclear facility. Image Wikimedia Commons

Arak nuclear facility. Image Wikimedia Commons

The sources of enmity between Iran and the United States are legion. In 1953, when Prime Minister of Iran Mohammad Mosaddegh (also spelled Mossadegh) sought to make Iran a democracy and nationalize the oil industry, which was owned by British corporations, the United States helped plan and execute a coup. Then, in 1979, when President Jimmy Carter allowed the just-deposed Shah into the United States for medical treatment, Iranian revolutionaries took U.S. embassy staff hostage. But, after 9/11, in a gesture of good will, Iran collected hundreds of Arabs who crossed the border from Afghanistan, deported them, and supplied copies of their passports to the United States. Iran also provided assistance overthrowing the Taliban and establishing the Karzai government in Afghanistan.
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Countering Boycott Calls With Anti-Semitism Accusations: a Sure Way to Lose the Argument

Israeli settlement in Har Homa. Image Wikimedia Commons

Israeli settlement in Har Homa. Image Wikimedia Commons

Israel is a small country, but it captures a disproportionately large chunk of almost every news broadcast, anywhere around the world. People tend to have passionate views about Israel, and Jews.

One increasingly prominent expression of people’s views about Israel is the growing chorus of advocates of various forms of boycotts against Israel, to make it pay a price for its military occupation of the West Bank, and its continuing siege on the Gaza Strip. Governments, financial, academic and commercial institutions and organizations advocate and practice a variety of boycotts against Israel, its companies, and its academic, financial and governmental institutions.

Some of those calling for boycotts against Israel are anti-Semites; most of them, however, are decidedly not. In fact, many of these protesters want to see an Israel that thrives and succeeds, and their calls for boycotts stem from desperation at seeing the country they care about act in ways that they consider immoral.
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How Will the Gulf Cooperation Council React to a U.S.-Iran Nuclear Deal?

Gulf Cooperation Council

The past few months have kept Iran busy. Apart from elections and a new President, a proposed nuclear deal is also in the air. With the United States and its allies planning to end their disastrous outing in Iraq, Iran’s role in the region seems to be growing with each passing day.

Furthermore, the Iranian nuclear deal might just put an end to the status quo between the Gulf countries and Iran. If so, how is the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) going to react?
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Secretary of the Air Force Tries to Show Nuclear Missile Force Some Love


The United States nuclear missile force has been beset by a series of issues that Robert Burns of the Associated Press, who has been the lead dog on this ongoing story, describes as the “deliberate violations of safety rules, failures of inspections,” and “breakdowns in training.” The latest, as you may have heard, is cheating by the “missileers” on proficiency exams. There’s been much handwringing on the part of the command, including Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, who wondered aloud: “Do they get bored?” he asked. No doubt; also, as Burns explains:

Nuclear missile duty has lost its luster in an era dominated by other security threats. It’s rarely the career path of first choice for young officers.

They can see the writing on the wall. Nuclear weapons may be a century away from being abolished. But in this year’s Omnibus Spending Bill, six percent of funding was cut from what the National Nuclear Security Administration asked for warhead research, development, production, and related activities.
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What Do Thailand, Ukraine, Belgium, and Egypt Have in Common? Dysfunctional Democracies

Cross-posted from the Eurasia Review.

Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra visiting with George Bush in the Oval Office, 2002. Image Wikimedia Commons

Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra visiting with George Bush in the Oval Office, 2002. Image Wikimedia Commons

Democratic election has been downgraded to a simple arithmetic head count game in Thailand, Ukraine, Belgium and Egypt (the TUBE states) and is no longer a peaceful and meaningful political system for selection of leaders there.

When the voting minority groups refuse to accept the defeats in elections and attempt frequently or continually to topple the leaders who have been legitimately mandated by the victorious majority (even though by a slim marginal number of ballots),  the one-man-one-vote mechanism for selecting the rulers or governing party is dysfunctional.

In Thailand, the political parties (in different names) led by Thaksin Shinawatra scored 40.6% vs 26.6% popular votes in the 2001 general election, 56.4% vs 16.1% in 2005, 36.6% vs 30.3% in 2007 (constituency), 39.60% vs 39.63% in 2007 (proportional), and then 48.4% vs 35.15% in 2011. Despite the definite and consistent choices of the majority (mainly in the rural areas) of the Thai voters, the properly and legally elected government was first overthrown by a coup in 2006 and is now being demanded to be dissolved to give way to an unelected “people’s council” led by the opposition leaders. In order to demolish the “Thaksin regime,” Suthep Thaugsuban has suggested bypassing the democratic election since he knows he will lose in the one-man-one-vote head count game again.

In Ukraine, the divide between the pro-Russia east and the pro-European Union west has also brought the state into chaos.  Unlike Thailand, there is a lack of a definite majority here and as indicated in the Orange Revolution 2004 and the death of Georgiy Gongadze in 2000, the hostile confrontation can last longer.  When Viktor Yanukovych exercised his presidential authority to scrap a pact for “closer integration with the 28-nation European Union” in November 2013, his opponents cannot afford to wait for the next general election to vote him down. Hundreds of thousands of pro-EU citizens keep on storming the Independence Square to rally for Yanukovych’s resignation, thus further intensifying the face-off between them and those living in the eastern region of the country who mostly speak Russian and prefer a closer tie with Moscow.

The cultural and linguistic split between the Dutch-speaking and French-speaking communities in Belgium had left the state without a government for as long as 589 days during the period 2007-11 continually. Although democratic election did generate a Dutch majority in the Belgian Chamber, the various dissensions derived from regionalism are unlikely to be settled by the art of political negotiation for a compromise. Elio Di Rupo’s premiership since December 2011 is temporary and transitional. Unless there is a breakthrough, the partition of Belgium is inevitable.

The July 2013 coup to overthrow the authority of Mohammed Mursi in Egypt is a clear sign that election, no matter how open and fair may it be, is not a magic wand which can soften the polarization between the Muslim Brotherhood and their opponents. Universal suffrage, after having soured to become a simple head count game, can no longer bring peace to this old civilization nation. Egyptians should know that religious fights did result in secession in history, for example, Pakistan’s departure from India.

Secession will take place eventually if there is no alternative to democracy when election fails to function as a generally accepted leader selection and government formation system in the TUBE states. It has been evident that the standoffs derived from geographical difference or cultural gap or religious divergence therein have paralyzed the governance. Whoever wins the next election cannot command respect and generate stability because with the head-count-based majority mandate the governing party becomes an exclusive club and rules like a tyranny of the majority.1 Those who have lost the election refuse to co-operate with the governing party and resort to street protests to override the ballot outcome. Once the opposition leaders capture the authority, they tend to undo the previous regime’s setup (a similar situation can also be found in Taiwan).  Lack of policy continuity deters foreign investments, international deals and the like. Diplomacy is difficult since no one knows whether the pacts signed by the incumbent leaders will be honored by the successors. A vicious cycle will take charge and the only solution is secession.

However, there is an alternative now. To win the support of the co-nationals, it is not a must for political leaders in TUBE to be selected through a simple-minded head count game. The meritocratic “Helmsman Ruler System” — a modern, pragmatic and experimental version of Plato’s rotational ruler system which has been working in China quite smoothly since the 1980s — is a feasible option. Teams of competent intellectual-turned-politicians from all backgrounds (like the Politburo in Beijing) take turn to lead the state after having gone through a number of training programs and proved their talents and caliber through a series of postings among various administrative positions.2

In Thailand, the helmsman rulers will be the ones who have served at the local governments in both urban and rural areas, and won the praises of both the office managers, white-collar workers and rice farmers. In Ukraine, the state will be governed by an inclusive team of helmsman rulers who are willing and able to cater for diverse regional needs. In Belgium, the Dutch-speaking and French-speaking leaders can rule the state in rotation so as to balance the interests of the two different linguistic communities. In Egypt, well-trained administrators will work with the leaders of various religious groups and in rotation to revive the glory of the nation.

Plato’s rotational ruler system is neither remote nor idealistic anymore. Take a look at China and see how it has brought success to this weak and poor state. The Helmsman Ruler System can work out to serve any nation by adaptation to individual national needs.


1. See p. 45 in Russell, Bertrand (1917), Political Ideals, London: Unwin Paperbacks.

2. International Policy Digest, Keith K C Hui, “China’s Rotational Ruler Model”

For further reading:

Eurasia Review, Keith K C Hui, “A China Model with British Accent

Hui, Keith K C (2013), Helmsman Ruler: China’s Pragmatic Version of Plato’s Ideal Political Succession System in The Republic, Singapore: Trafford Publishing.


Amanda Knox Trial: Italian Judiciary Attempts to Save Face, Winds up With More Egg on It

Rudy Guede, convicted in the murder of Meredith Kercher.

Rudy Guede, convicted in the murder of Meredith Kercher.

As most who follow the news or social media know, Amanda Knox was originally found guilty, along with two others, of murdering housemate Meredith Kercher in Perugia, Italy. She served four years in Italian prison, but was released when the verdict was overturned on appeal. After Ms. Knox returned to the United States, she (in absentia) and her then boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito were retried ― some technicality prevented that from being considered double jeopardy ― in Florence. On Thursday, the guilt verdict was reinstated. Bear in mind no actual evidence has been found. Afterwards, Ms. Knox’s attorney, Ted Simon, said:

“The bottom line is, there is no evidence. There was no evidence, and there never will be any evidence, and that’s why this is such a gross miscarriage of justice.”
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How the UN Can Ignore 8,000 Deaths in Haiti

Haitian Minister of Public Health Dr. Alex Larsen with patient. Image Wikimedia Commons

Haitian Minister of Public Health Dr. Alex Larsen with patient. Image Wikimedia Commons

Since its independence in 1804, Haiti has suffered from a multitude of ailments—poverty, corruption, instability—common among the developing countries of the world. However, cholera was not one of them. Cholera is an infection of the small intestine that is contracted from drinking water that has been contaminated by human waste. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, and sometimes death.

In October 2010, the first cases of cholera began springing up around the Artibonite River—a life source for thousands of Haitians in the central plateau region—and the first patients began arriving at St. Nicolas Hospital in St. Marc. After rumors begin to spread that UN peacekeepers from Nepal were to blame, Associated Press reporter Jonathan Katz went to the Nepalese base and found that human waste was leaking into the river.
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