Nothing Means Anything, Chapter 715

Or: Another Day In The Trump Administration

There are two very different narratives of what is happening in the negotiations with North Korea.

  1. As Kim Jong Un promised in his New Year’s Day address, North Korea is building up its capacity to manufacture nuclear weapons and the missiles they might ride on. In the past week, we have seen evidence from the national intelligence agencies and independent analysts that there are at least two clandestine uranium enrichment plants, a missile manufacturing plant is being expanded, and related production is being expanded. This narrative is held by all the US intelligence agencies and most independent experts on North Korea and nuclear weapons.
  2. North Korea has agreed to give up its nuclear weapons program. Full denuclearization can be completed in a year or less. Kim and Donald Trump saw eye to eye at the Singapore summit. Kim wants to improve the North Korean economy, and he understands that only by giving up his nuclear program can he expect sanctions to be lifted. This is a victory for Trump’s policiy of “maximum pressure.” This narrative is held in public by Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and National Security Advisor John Bolton.

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A Dozen Facts Donald Trump and Mike Pompeo Need To Know To Negotiate With North Korea

The primary issue that is being negotiated with North Korea is its nuclear weapons and the missiles they might be mounted on for attacks on the United States and its allies, South Korea and Japan. A meaningful agreement will have to include many technical issues.

Donald Trump and Mike Pompeo are not nuclear or rocket scientists, nor can we expect most politicians to be. But the technical facts are no less difficult to learn than the economics. (Oops! They get that wrong, too. I will push forward anyway.) Pundits commenting on the negotiations and people who simply want to understand may find this list useful. Read More

Links – June 9, 2018

What is wrong with Donald Trump’s approach to the summit with North Korea. Trump: “I am the only one who matters.” And he’s not preparing. Technical unknowns in verifying North Korea’s nuclear program. History of negotiations with North Korea. North Korea seems to be destroying a missile test stand. Like the nuclear test site, this is a significant symbolic action but may be easily reversible.

These demands for results from the North Korean summit by Senate Democrats sound like they could have come from John Bolton. Bad idea. Richard Haas breaks down how the negotiations should work but probably won’t.

By me in Pakistan Politico: The Illogic of Regime Change.

Many good points here about foreign policy realism. But the realists often carry it too far.

“Why would Assad do it?” Debunking the abstract theories surrounding Syria’s chemical attacks.

This is somewhat beyond the usual for Nuclear Diner, but it’s the only article I’ve seen that does a good job of explaining what college is likely to cost. Spoiler: it’s related more to family income than to the institution.

The Opposition To The Iran Deal Is Intellectually and Morally Bankrupt

Reuel Marc Gerecht has an article titled “The Iran Deal Is Strategically and Morally Absurd” at the Atlantic website. It is a good example of the repetitive and tendentious tripe that the opponents consistently offer up.

I am not fond of the bloggy format of dissecting a piece of writing sentence by sentence by sentence, although Gerecht’s piece could easily provoke such a response. Each sentence presents a misrepresenation or other ugliness that it seems wrong to allow to pass. But I’d like to make my response more succinct.

Since the title begins with “The Iran Deal,” one might expect that that would be the subject of the article. But few words are expended on the substance of the deal compared to, for example vituperation against Barack Obama. The personalization of Gerecht’s argument is typical of criticism by opponents on Twitter and elsewhere. Read More

The Lone Gunman Comes To Town

Hundreds of films and television series were produced in the middle of the twentieth century on the theme of the lone gunman saving a town. An isolated frontier town is in trouble, usually from marauders who are stealing cattle and menacing women and children. A rugged, handsome hero rides in and saves the town.

The variations are endless. The troublemakers may be from the town or from outside. They are often nonwhite and the town primarily white, with a few people of color scattered in. The leadership of the town, usually white men, are ineffective or injured. The hero is white and may, as in the case of the Lone Ranger, have a nonwhite sidekick. He may become romantically involved with one of the women of the town, but he seldom stays. The narrative is gendered and racialized. Read More

Paul Manafort in Ukraine’s 2010 Election

Back in 2010, a couple of things seemed strange to me about the Ukrainian election. Yulia Tymoshenko came across as much more corrupt and autocratic than I had recalled. At the same time, Victor Yanukovych had greatly upgraded his image from unimaginative apparatchik.

I don’t follow Ukraine as closely as I do the Baltic states, so I figured that I had missed some things about Tymoshenko and that maybe Yanukovych was transcending his origins. This week I learned that those impressions were a result of Paul Manafort’s work with Yanukovych’s campaign. Read More

John Bolton as Donald Trump’s National Security Advisor

When thinking about John Bolton as National Security Advisor, we should keep in mind that there is no reason for war between the US and North Korea or Iran. Iran has adhered to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and the other six signatories are satisfied with the situation. It is testing missiles and is engaged in the war in Syria, which are a concern but not subjects of the JCPOA. North Korea has the capability to build thermonuclear warheads and mount them on missiles, but the numbers are few, and its leaders seem willing to talk.

The cause for talk of war is President Donald Trump’s belligerence. Without that, there are ways forward that do not involve war. Unfortunately, John Bolton has never met a war he didn’t like. Read More

Links – March 23, 2018

How Trump has split with his administration on Russian meddling. And now he’s congratulated Vladimir Putin on his electoral “win,” against the advice of his national security staff. Apparently now he is planning to meet Putin, but it’s always hard to know for sure.

The secret Russian military labs that deal with nerve agents. I am seeing a number of contradictory articles with interviews of former Soviet scientists said to have worked on the Novichok agents. The articles contradict each other to some degree. I won’t post them until I can figure out more about which (if any) to believe. Frequently asked questions about the Salisbury poisoning. An article from an expert I feel is reliable.

Long article on Ivan Ilyin, whom Putin likes to quote.

Nice takedown of a fear-mongering New York Times article on hacking and the power grid. I think part of the reason for clickbait articles like that is that too many reporters turn off their brains when confronted with anything that looks like it might involve math.

Why not start the North Korean talks by dealing with nuclear safety?  Jon Wolfsthal suggests that planning for negotiations develop some goals and expectations. This would be an obvious thing that did not need to be said in an alternate universe. The dirty secret of nuclear arms in Korea in the early 1960s. There were over half as many nuclear weapons in South Korea as the US has deployed overall today.

Very cool schematic of the SCL Group, the parent company of Cambridge Analytica. An August 2016 article about SCL and CA. And an article from December 2015.

The Security and Exchange Commission has charged Elizabeth Holmes with massive fraud in Theranos Corporation. Here are her seven biggest lies.

It looks like Israel is trumpeting its 2007 bombing of a nuclear reactor site in Syria to encourage those who would like to believe that the many hardened sites in Iran and North Korea, locations unknown, could be as easily taken out. That’s not true, but look for this to be used as an example by people like John Bolton and Mark Dubowitz. Top photo is of the reactor building before the bombing and after the bombing and site clearing of the debris.

The October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. This week is the 15th anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq war. This NIE was part of its justification.