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Nothing to Fear Addendum

June 15, 2008

Don’t read this one before going to sleep:

An international smuggling ring that sold bomb-related parts to Libya, Iran and North Korea also managed to acquire blueprints for an advanced nuclear weapon, according to a draft report by a former top U.N. arms inspector that suggests the plans could have been shared secretly with any number of countries or rogue groups.

Wretchard’s response:

I think any reasonable person can deduce several very probable things from this information. First, that a number of regimes, including but not limited to, Iran, Libya, and North Korea, are interested in developing nuclear weapons outside of the non-proliferation regime. Second, that nuclear weapons design information is already available to them, and possibly to any private party with the money to purchase it.

It is less probable, but certainly reasonable to conclude that because elements of the Pakistani government have been involved in AQ Khan’s activity, it is by no means impossible that al-Qaeda has the weapons design information.

It is therefore possible that the only thing standing between the world and a rogue nuclear weapon or weapons are industrial and engineering difficulties. That is, the stockpiling of fissile material the development of the weapons components (such as fuses) themselves and the refinement of delivery systems. The existence of an advanced design means that a delivery system could be fairly small. A small cargo aircraft, a large executive jet or a pallet on a 747 freighter.

Since all the industrial and engineering difficulties are probably going to be solved over the course of several decades there is a real probability of a future nuclear September 11. Like the original September 11, it may feature multiple simultaneous attacks. Perhaps upon the original cities, perhaps upon a dozen or more.

I don’t usually quote whole posts, but I thought this one was important. Go check out the comments for further thoughts on what he thinks the most likely targets are.

The thing about talking to people who have proven themselves untrustworthy and filled with evil intent is that the talking becomes subterfuge. There is nothing in it but deception. While talks take place, evil plans can be carried out in secret. Meanwhile those engaging in subterfuge can demand of the decent party every bit of civility entitled them by the charade until they are excused from their own deceit at the expense of those with good intentions. It’s a fools errand, an opening move at best during which one had better have a plan, because afterward may be too late. Much too late.

In this context a candidate who talks about the US shedding nukes so that countries like Iran and North Korea won’t have an “excuse” seems woefully naive to be entrusted with such a great responsibility.

This election look like it will be cast as a debate between a candidate who wants to talk and a candidate who wants war, with supporters of each being cast as lovers of talk or war. I guess it’s naive of my to hope that after all this time we could get deeper, and maybe this is splitting hairs, but shouldn’t the debate be on the merits of each approach, rather than having a pre-determined approach the preferred one? I have been a supporter of staying in Iraq because we are there and we have made promises to real people not just “governments”, but I don’t think the way to deal with Iran is by any means clear.

What is clear is the stakes. We all know the risks of military action but less examined are the risks of diplomacy. What seems clear to me is that both are necessary. What is also clear to me personally is that I am not willing to sacrifice an entire city or God forbid multiple cities to a nuclear 9/11 before I want my country to be able to respond forcefully. I don’t think Barack Obama or anyone else really holds that position but what I do see is a very real trepidation concerning force used for the national interest that makes this nightmare scenario much more plausible.

Is that fear mongering?

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