The Nuclear Chain of Command

Donald Trump has been musing about nuclear war since the 1980s, and now he’s bringing our fears to life with his tweets against North Korea. Also, playing the role of a decisive and serious executive, he told the military back in July that he wanted to increase the US’s arsenal of nuclear weapons back to the maximum we had during the Cold War. That seems to have been the trigger for Rex Tillerson to call him a moron. Tillerson wasn’t wrong.

As always with Trump, it’s a good idea to have the facts before us. So here are some.

A president launches nuclear missiles via an electronic briefcase (“the football”) that is always at his side, carried by a service member at the O4-O5 level. That’s a major – lieutenant colonel or lieutenant commander – commander. The services rotate, and both male and female service members have been in this role. One of them made the news back in the spring of this year when he allowed Mar-a-Lago patrons to take selfies with him. Their role is to be unobtrusive and to follow orders. Read More

Sillamäe Again

Here’s a light but crabby post for a Saturday. Fits my mood.

I’ve spent a fair bit of time in Sillamäe, Estonia, and more thinking about it. So when a publication screws up the facts, I feel a need to respond.

This time, it’s Atlas Obscura doing a remarkable job of stuffing errors into a short article. Read More

Undermining The Iran Nuclear Deal

With President Donald Trump’s loud declaration of disdain for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the nuclear deal arrived at with Iran by six nations plus the European Union, the opponents of the deal are newly energized. They have resurrected all their old arguments, plus a few more.

Although the agreement severely limits the amounts of materials needed to make a bomb and places heavy inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on the facilities that Iran used to taunt the international community with its nuclear know-how, the opponents of the deal insist that it will be no time at all before Iran surprises us with a bomb. They make this argument without bothering to specify how that might happen. Read More

Links – September 21, 2017

Kori Schake was an official in George W. Bush’s Department of Defense. Here’s her analysis of Donald Trump’s speech at the United Nations. Another good analysis by Mira Rapp-Hooper. And by Thomas Wright.  The transcript of Trump’s speech.

Rex Tillerson’s “Redesign Overview” slides for the State Department.  “He took the job and made it smaller”: how Rex Tillerson failed the State Department.

The history of US nuclear weapons in South Korea.

One of North Korea’s key diplomats, someone for the US to engage. Top photo: North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho addresses the United Nations General Assembly on September 23, 2016.

Excellent defense of the Iran nuclear deal from two people who helped negotiate it. There are many articles on the Iran nuclear deal and why we should stay in it. This one is among the best.

 

 

North Korea’s Latest Nuclear Test

For broad policy, there are only two things that matter about the latest North Korean nuclear test: The explosion is very big and the bomb possibly small enough to fit on a North Korean missile. If it isn’t that small yet, the next model will be.

The yield measured for the test was about 150 kilotons. That’s about ten times the force of the Hiroshima bomb. It doesn’t matter whether it was 130 kilotons or 200 kilotons. It can destroy a city. The missiles now being tested can reach the United States. Read More

Links – September 7, 2017

Apologies for the lack of substantive posts lately. There are so many things going on in news I might write about, it’s hard to keep up, much less write something. I prefer to write about what we know, rather than speculating. The North Korean nuclear test is still being figured out by the people with the seismographs, but I hope to write a post on that soon. Nikki Haley delivered a speech based on a great many wrong ideas about the nuclear agreement with Iran. And then there are the human rights issues, which are beyond the scope of this blog, but hard to ignore. I can’t figure out why the Trumpies want two more wars while causing major domestic upset.

Here are links to what other people are writing. Read More