Focal Points Blog

President Obama’s Twisted Nuclear-Weapons Legacy

The new National Nuclear Security Administration plant in Kansas City. (Photo: NNSA)

The Obama administration’s nuclear policy was on the receiving end of a one-two punch from the New York Times. First, on September 22, in a piece titled U.S. Ramping Up Major Renewal in Nuclear Arms, William Broad and David Sanger wrote about a new nuclear manufacturing facility in Kansas City and upgrades to the Lawrence Livermore, Sandia, and Los Alamos national laboratories, as well as at the Pantex manufacturing facility (among others). It’s all “part of a nationwide wave of atomic revitalization that includes plans for a new generation of weapon carriers. A recent federal study put the collective price tag, over the next three decades, at up to a trillion dollars.” A useful infographic outlining the upgrades can be found five paragraphs into the Times article. 
Read More

What Happened to Romania’s Irrecuperables?

Conditions are improving for Romanian orphans with mental and physical disabilities, but much still needs to be done. (Photo: Penny Kibble / Flickr)

Conditions are improving for Romanian orphans with mental and physical disabilities, but much still needs to be done. (Photo: Penny Kibble / Flickr)

In 1990, the issue that catapulted Romania into the headlines in the West, after the rise and fall of Ceausescu, was the country’s orphanages. Journalists and foreign health care workers were appalled to discover the condition of babies and children in the many state-run institutions in the country. During the Ceausescu era, abortions were difficult to obtain, and many families were simply too poor to handle another mouth to feed. The 700 orphanages scattered around the country were filled to bursting with 170,000 children.

Many of the children were healthy. Adoption agencies began to match children to eager parents abroad. In that first year, Romania sent 10,000 children abroad, and tens of thousands more before the Romanian government, citing corruption, imposed a moratorium in 2001.

But there were also many children that didn’t fit the profile that most adoptive parents wanted. These were the “irrecuperables,” the children with mental and physical disabilities who were warehoused in “hospitals.” Romanian authorities, both during and immediately after the Ceausescu era, had deemed these children beyond recuperation.
Read More

The International Atomic Energy Agency Further Shreds Its Credibility

The IAEA visits Iran’s first nuclear-energy plant in Bushehr. (Photo: AEOI INRA / IAEA Imagebank)

The IAEA visits Iran’s first nuclear-energy plant in Bushehr. (Photo: AEOI INRA / IAEA Imagebank)

The United States and Iran seem to be moving, however haltingly, toward a nuclear deal. Iran continues — arguably, it’s in the right — to stonewall U.S. demands that it drastically reduce its enrichment program. In an effort to reach a new deal before the interim one expires on Nov. 24, Washington has proposed leaving Iran’s centrifuges in place but disconnected from uranium.

Meanwhile, in an article on Sept. 8 at BloombergBusinessweek, to which Dan Joyner linked at ArmsControlLaw, Jonathan Tirone writes that inspectors for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will not be tasked with making a decision about whether Iran tried to develop nuclear weapons.
Read More

Obama Launches an Illegal War in Syria

obama-air-strikes-syria-isis

(Photo: U.S. Army / Flickr)

President Obama’s decision to bomb Syria stands in stark violation of international law, the UN Charter, and the requirements of the U.S. Constitution. It contradicts his own commitment, stated a year ago in the UN General Assembly, to reverse Washington’s “perpetual war footing.”

And it portends disaster for the people of Syria, the region, and much of the world.

The White House stated goal is to destroy the headquarters of the violent and extremist ISIS militia. But you can’t bomb extremism out of existence. The U.S. bombs do not fall on “extremism,” they are falling on Raqqah, a 2,000 year-old Syrian city with a population of more than a quarter of a million people – men, women and children who had no say in the take-over of their city by ISIS. The Pentagon is bombing targets like the post office and the governor’s compound, and the likelihood of large number of civilian casualties as well as devastation of the ancient city, is almost certain.

President Obama was right when he said there is no military solution to the ISIS crisis. Bombing Syria, without Congressional authorization, without United Nations approval, in direct opposition to the stated position of Syria’s government, will only make that crisis worse. It will give ISIS and its allies a new basis for recruitment, it will strengthen the repressive Syrian government, it will undermine Syria’s struggling non-violent opposition movement, and it will further tighten the links between ISIS supporters in Syria and in Iraq.

The bombing should stop immediately, and be replaced with a U.S. policy based on:

  • Supporting an intensive new UN-based diplomatic initiative involving all parties in the region
  • Opening direct talks with Iran and Russia based on shared opposition to ISIS – with Iran to jointly push for ending anti-Sunni sectarianism in the Iraqi government, and with Russia to work towards ending the multi-party civil war in Syria
  • Pressuring U.S. allies in the region to stop their governments and people from arming and facilitating the movement of ISIS fighters
  • Shifting the war funds to a massive increase in humanitarian assistance

India and China’s Pragmatism Challenge U.S. Superpower Status

In lieu of military might, China challenges the United States with its doctrine of “pragmatism,” as defined by the so-called China Model. (Photo: Khalidshou / Wikimedia Commons)

In lieu of military might, China challenges the United States with its doctrine of “pragmatism,” as defined by the so-called China Model. (Photo: Khalidshou / Wikimedia Commons)

When Narendra Modi greeted Xi Jinping with the idea of “INCH (India and China) towards MILES (Millennium of Exceptional Synergy)” [Note 1], the new age of “pragmatism”-based multi-polarity has taken another great step to replace the fading age of liberalism-based dominance by the United States.

In terms of military might, innovation capability, financial market leverage, natural resources endowment, and natural science progression, BRICS plus MIKT (Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea, Turkey) or CIVETS or “Next Eleven” altogether are no match with the USA. Yet, both analysts and ordinary people in the street can more or less sense that the U.S.-led unipolarity is under serious threat, especially from China.
Read More

Missile Defense Isn’t the Only Weapons System That Undermines Nuclear Deterrence

It’s difficult to tell the difference between an incoming conventionally armed hypersonic missile and a ballistic missile with a nuclear warhead. (Photo: Lockheed)

It’s difficult to tell the difference between an incoming conventionally armed hypersonic missile and a ballistic missile with a nuclear warhead. (Photo: Lockheed)

You’ve heard of supersonic: 1.2 to five times the speed of sound. Hypersonic missiles, while not as fast as ballistic missiles, travels at five to 10 times the speed of sound. What exactly are they? At the Bulletin for Atomic Scientists, Mark Gubrud reports. (Emphasis added.)

Hypersonic missiles fall into two distinct categories. In what is known as a boost-glide weapon, the hypersonic vehicle is first “boosted” on a ballistic trajectory, using a conventional rocket. … it glides at hypersonic speed toward its final destination.

Hypersonic cruise missiles, on the other hand, typically are launched to high speed using a small rocket, and then, after dropping the rocket, are powered by a supersonic combustion ram jet, or scramjet, for flight at five times the speed of sound (some 3,800 miles per hour) or greater.

Read More

Without Iran, a Coalition to Confront the Islamic State Is Doomed to Failure

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry opposes including Iran in the coalition aligned against the Islamic State. (Photo: Ralph Alswang / Flickr)

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry opposes including Iran in the coalition aligned against the Islamic State. (Photo: Ralph Alswang / Flickr)

With the skills it has exhibited for governing (see In Raqqa, ISIL governs with fear and efficiency in the National), one can’t help but wonder if it might be a good idea to just let the Islamic State have its caliphate. Impossible, of course, because of the fear factor. In fact, its brutality is like a self-destruct button that mobilizes states to join forces against it. For example, as Graeme Wood wrote in the New Republic:

… any attack on a Western city would draw an immediate and devastating counterattack on Raqqa, and wouldn’t require the laborious fumigation of hundreds of mountain caves.

Read More

Before and After the Berlin Wall Fell, Equal Opportunity for German Women Has Been a Challenge

 

Marina Grasse helped found East-West European Women’s Network. (Photo: Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung / Wikimedia)

Marina Grasse helped found East-West European Women’s Network. (Photo: Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung / Wikimedia)

Cross-posted from JohnFeffer.com.

Revolutions elevate a new and unexpected group of people to power. In East-Central Europe in 1990, an electrician became the president of Poland, a playwright the president of Czechoslovakia, and a philosopher the president of Bulgaria. After this brief period of the world turned upside down, the professional politicians took over again (or in the case of Vaclav Havel, the playwright morphed into a professional politician). But for a year or two or three, “ordinary” people were suddenly in charge of transforming the country.

Marina Grasse is a biologist who was involved in the independent peace movement in East Germany in the 1980s. I met her in 1990 (when she was Marina Beyer) to talk about the Pankow Peace Circle and how it was adapting to the new circumstances in a democratic East Germany. As the mother of four children, she was also passionately interested in educational reform. In fact, on the evening just before the Berlin Wall fell in November 1989, she helped to organize a forum on educational reform in East Berlin. They expected 10-20 people. A couple thousand showed up.
Read More

Our Unjust Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan Have Blinded Us to a Real Threat

U.S. motives for Iraq were so hidden that we no longer trust our leaders to wage a just war. (Photo: PEO Soldier / Flickr)

U.S. motives for Iraq were so hidden that we no longer trust our leaders to wage a just war. (Photo: PEO Soldier / Flickr)

A sports or entertainment columnist that we read on a regular basis often becomes a trusted voice to us. When he or she turns to different subjects, especially politics and world affairs, the columnist is in a unique position to reach a readership not interested in those subjects or who may be under the spell of hard-right personalities. In recent years, noted sportswriter Mike Lupica has been writing such columns for the New York Daily News. Recently, whether you agree with him or not, Lupica shares an arresting insight.
Read More

Foreign Policy, Lord Palmerston, and Appendectomies

As British foreign secretary and prime minister in the early nineteenth century, Lord Palmerston oversaw a period of great change. (Photo: Hulton Archive)

As British foreign secretary and prime minister in the early nineteenth century, Lord Palmerston oversaw a period of great change. (Photo: Hulton Archive)

Thinking about U.S. foreign policy these days brings to mind a line from songwriter/comedian Tom Lehrer: if you are feeling like a Christian Scientist with appendicitis you have good reason.

1)  The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is creating a Rapid Reaction Force to challenge Russian “aggression” in Ukraine, and the U.S., the European Union, and Russia are lobbing sanctions at each other that have thrown Europe back into a recession. Russian planes are buzzing U.S. and Canadian warships in the Black Sea.

2)  The U.S. is bombing Iraq and Syria in an effort to halt the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), while at the same time supporting insurgents trying to overthrow the Assad regime in Damascus, the pool from which ISIL was created.

3)  After 13 years of war, Afghanistan is the verge of a civil war over the last presidential election, while the Taliban have stepped up their attacks on the Afghan military and civil authorities.

4)  Libya has essentially dissolved as a country, but not without supplying insurgents in central Africa and Nigeria with greatly enhanced firepower.

5)  The U.S. encouraged the Japanese government to bypass Article 9 of Japan’s peace constitution that restricted deploying its military outside of Japan. Washington also committed the U.S. to support Tokyo in the event of a clash with China over the ownership of a handful of islands in the East China Sea. American, Japanese and Chinese warships and military aircraft have been playing chicken with one another in the East and South China seas.
Read More

Page 5 of 185« First...34567...102030...Last »