Focal Points Blog

If Elected, Trump Unlikely to Improve on Obama’s Nuclear-Weapons Record

Donald Trump has demonstrated a willingness to use nuclear weapons if elected president. (Photo: Gage Skidmore / Flickr Commons)

Donald Trump has demonstrated a willingness to use nuclear weapons if elected president. (Photo: Gage Skidmore / Flickr Commons)

Republican presidential candidate Donald J. Trump has not ruled out using a nuclear bomb once he becomes president. As he told interviewer Chris Matthews in late March, “I’m not going to take it off the table.” Nor would Trump object if South Korea and Japan acquired nuclear weapons. If they did so, he said, the U.S. “may very well be better off.”

It has long been U.S. policy to oppose the development of such a bomb by any other country, including our allies. The aim is to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons and make sure they would not be acquired by a rogue state. So far this policy has worked; the spread of nuclear weapons has been limited, if not entirely prevented. There is good reason for calling the use of a nuclear weapon “unthinkable.” In August 1945, two atom bombs dropped by the U.S. all but obliterated the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Today the U.S. and Russia possess nuclear weapons with many times the destructive power of the earlier bombs. If a nuclear exchange ever took place, the destruction would be greater than anything the world has ever known, and much of the earth would be contaminated by fall-out.
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Hiroshima’s Other Chain Reaction

Thanks but no thanks, says Japan. (Perhaps the single most disturbing photo of the aftermath of the bombing: U.S. Navy Public Affairs)

Thanks but no thanks, says Japan. (Perhaps the single most disturbing photo of the aftermath of the bombing: U.S. Navy Public Affairs)

Apparently, President Obama will not be using his visit to Hiroshima in a couple of weeks to provide support for recent revisionist history, which holds that dropping atom bombs on Japan did not cause Japan to surrender in World War II. Deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes wrote:

He will not revisit the decision to use the atomic bomb at the end of World War II. Instead, he will offer a forward-looking vision focused on our shared future.

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Iran’s Hard-line Supreme Leader Was Actually a Protege of the Moderates

Ayatollah Khameini was never as moderate as those who put him in power. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Ayatollah Khameini was never as moderate as those who put him in power. (Photo: Wikipedia)

The battle between the left and right is just as vicious in Iran as it is in the United States. In a piece at the National Interest titled Iran’s Incredible Shrinking Ayatollah, Muhammad Sahimi writes:

There is a fierce power struggle in Iran between those who want to open up Iran and reconcile with the rest of the world, and Khamenei and his supporters who have been frozen in the revolutionary era of 1979.

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Russia Struggling With Its Inferiority Complex

The Soviet Union once boasted superior conventional forces to the United States, but that is not the case with Russia. Pictured: the Kremlin. (Photo: Larry Koester / Flickr Commons)

The Soviet Union once boasted superior conventional forces to the United States, but that is not the case with Russia. Pictured: the Kremlin. (Photo: Larry Koester / Flickr Commons)

According to conventional wisdom, its war with Georgia, invasion of Ukraine, and annexation of Crimea are examples of Russia flexing its muscles. Though actions by its warplanes are decidedly provocative including a Russian fighter buzzing a U.S. destroyer (see video).

At The Hill,  Will Saetren and Noah Williams write:

Perhaps most troublingly, Russia has started making not-so-subtle nuclear threats against NATO.

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Killing bin Laden May Have Harmed U.S. National Security

Killing a neutered bin Laden was little more than a publicity stunt. Pictured: Osama bin Laden in his happy cave days. (Photo: The Telegraph)

Killing a neutered bin Laden was little more than a publicity stunt. Pictured: Osama bin Laden in his happy cave days. (Photo: The Telegraph)

We recently posted about Seymour Hersh’s skepticism that the Pakistani military and the ISI were unaware of Osama bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad. In his Democracy Now interview, he talks about how then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who was unenthusiastic about the mission, was especially upset that the Obama administration went public with the story almost immediately.
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The Term “War Crime “ Is Obsolete

Vietnam War bombs Public Domain

Tough not to call it a war crime when the U.S. dropped more bombs during the Vietnam War than it had on Germany during World War II. (Photo: Public Domain)

In the current film “Eye in the Sky,” Helen Mirren plays a British colonel who must decide whether not to authorize an air strike on the headquarters of a group of Shebab terrorists in Kenya who are preparing to carry out a suicide attack in a crowded market place. The problem is that a little girl is selling bread from a stand close to where the terrorists are meeting. If the plotters set off their bomb, scores of innocent people will be killed. If the colonel orders an airstrike on their headquarters the little girl will die.

The situation the film presents is in many ways a microcosm of modern war. If war crimes are defined as military actions that, intentionally or not, harm great numbers of civilians, then either all wars today are crimes, or the term has become meaningless.
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Saudi Crisis Deepens (Part 1)

Saudi oil resources are not inexhaustible. Pictured: King Salman. (Photo: AWD News)

Saudi oil resources are not inexhaustible. Pictured: King Salman. (Photo: AWD News)

Perceptions can be very deceiving when it comes to Saudi Arabia, especially since Western media have mostly acted as Al Saud’s personal publicists over the decades. In 1974 Fred Halliday published a book focusing on the politico/economic structure of the Arabian Peninsula. In “Arabia Without Sultans” Halliday asserts that the conservative rulers of the Peninsula were, sooner or later, as doomed as was Egypt’s monarchy in the early 1950s.

Some history is in order.
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Pakistani Ignorance of bin Laden Kill Mission Grows More Ridiculous by the Year

Pakistan has state-of-the-art radar — supplied by the United States. (Photo: Tech Juice)

Pakistan has state-of-the-art radar — supplied by the United States. (Photo: Tech Juice)

Seymour Hersh is on a promotional tour for his new book The Killing of Osama bin Laden (Verso Books), in which he investigates the U.S. story of Abbottabad. In an interview with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now, he spoke about how unlikely it was that the Pakistani military and ISI were unaware that U.S. helicopters had crossed into Pakistan and were on the way to accomplish their kill mission. See, the United States had provided Pakistan with the means to detect just such an incursion.
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Patience Not a Virtue With the Islamic State

Georgians seek to earn extra money for retirement by peddling uranium. (Photo: the Telegraph)

Georgians seek to earn extra money for retirement by peddling uranium. (Photo: the Telegraph)

In the last six months, two different incidents of the smuggling of nuclear material have been intercepted in Georgia. In the most recent, a group of three Georgians and three Armenians attempted to sell a small amount of uranium, estimated at $27 a pound for the fanciful price of two million dollars. At the Daily Beast, Anna Nemtsova explains how poor Georgians and Armenians are.

According to the World Bank, up to 27 percent of the Georgian population and up to 37 percent of Armenians live below the poverty line. The Caucasus are full of men desperate to make money, even if that involves the risk of imprisonment.

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How Japanese Officials Can Atone for Fukushima

Despite the Fukushima and Chernobyl disasters, nuclear energy continues to thrive. Pictured: Fukushima shortly after the disaster. (Photo: Warren Antiola / Flickr Commons)

Despite the Fukushima and Chernobyl disasters, nuclear energy continues to thrive. Pictured: Fukushima shortly after the disaster. (Photo: Warren Antiola / Flickr Commons)

The meltdowns and release of radiation from the Fukushima Daaichi nuclear power plant has been an ongoing crisis for five years. Nuclear engineer Koide Hiroaki has been one of the most trenchant critics of how the Japanese government and power company TEPCO (mis)handled the disaster. In a wide-ranging interview at Counterpunch, he offered a way for officials, who have gone unpunished, to atone.

Right now the people of Fukushima have been abandoned in the areas of the highest levels of radiation. And abandoned people have to find a way to live. Farmers produce agricultural goods, dairy farmers produce dairy products, and ranchers produce meat; these people must do so in order to live. They are not the ones to be blamed at all.

As the Japanese state is absolutely unreliable in this matter, these people have no choice but to go on producing food in that place, all the while suffering further exposure. So I don’t think we can throw out the food they produce there under those conditions. Inevitably someone has to consume that food.

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