Links – May 8, 2018

What Russia wants most – derzhavnost means both being a great power and being recognized as such by others. It explains a lot.

What North Korea needs to give up for peace with South Korea. This seems analogous to the Soviet Union’s foreign policy before 1989. This is what would be necessary to monitor a deal with North Korea – much more complex than Iran’s agreement, which Trump is now savaging. Top photo from hereA nuclear inspection team from the International Atomic Energy Agency in Iran in 2014. CreditKazem Ghane/European Pressphoto Agency

Probably the best piece around on Benjamin Netanyahu’s spectacle on the Iran deal.

The OPCW concluded that the chemical agent used on the Skripals in Salisbury, England was “concluded that the chemical substance found was of high purity, persistent and resistant to weather conditions.”

How they do it – open source intelligence at Middlebury’s Center for Nonproliferation Studies.

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

This Is What You Do When You Don’t Have A Real Argument

Two of the key people in the Obama administration for the negotiation of the Iran nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), were investigated by an Israeli private intelligence agency trying to find dirt on them, The Guardian reported today.

The agency talked to reporters in order to find whether Ben Rhodes and Colin Kahl, advisors to President Obama, had shared sensitive information. Presumably they found nothing, or we would have heard about it.

This has been the modus operandi of the JCPOA opponents all along. On Twitter, they indulge in ad hominems and personal attacks rather than present a coherent argument. They set up straw men with views that misrepresent the case for the agreement. They all seem to have the same talking points and slogans (“sunset clauses,” “give Iran nuclear weapons”) in what I might have called an echo chamber if they hadn’t seized on that Read More

Deterring Regime Change

Nuclear weapons programs come with costs: financial, reputational, and the potential for being made a target by other nuclear powers. There is also an opportunity cost in diverting smart scientists, engineers, and managers from work that might produce improvement to people’s daily lives and the economy.

Leaders understand that there are costs. In starting his nuclear weapons program in the 1970s, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto of Pakistan declared “’We will eat grass, even go hungry, but we will get [a nuclear weapon] of our own.”

The Iranian documents presented by Benjamin Netanyahu yielded one new piece of information: That Iran planned an arsenal of only five rather small (10 kiloton yield) warheads. Likewise, Kim Jong Un has declared his arsenal complete after what seems a rather sketchy set of tests. Read More

Links – April 27, 2018

Photo from Al Jazeera’s timeline of the Korean Summit. Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in shaking hands across the border.

Trump needs to pare back his goals for his meeting with Kim Jong UnSuspicious factory underscores challenge of verifying North Korea’s nuclear promises. Nothing that Trump has said indicates that he has any concept of verification. What to do if the talks with North Korea succeed: Develop a program like the Nunn-Lugar program for Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union. Since Siegfried Hecker was instrumental in the program with Russia, I’ve always thought that North Korea’s invitation to him to visit in 2004 was an attempt at building such a program. From 2017, on how to deter North Korea. Read More

Links – March 30, 2018

Three similar op-eds about the unified expulsions of Russian diplomats, from Kadri Liik, Shashank Joshi, and Mark Galeotti. Bottom line: In the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Vladimir Putin has supplied the last straw so that other world leaders will not tolerate his attempts at deniability, which are no longer plausible.

One of the reasons that this broad rebuke has a good chance to influence Russia is that Putin would like to rebrand Russia as a great power, but he’s having difficulty doing so. 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 4, 2018

National Security Pros, It’s Time to Talk About Right-Wing Extremism.

Russia cancels talks with US. This just after Vladimir Putin displays his, um, nukes. Twelve-year-old boys are in charge of at least three nations’ nuclear arsenals.

Reactions to Putin’s “state of the nation” speech. More about the weapons mentioned in that speech. Yet more from Jeffrey Lewis. I take Putin’s claims with a grain of salt. Russia has claimed weapons that never went into production. I suspect significant exaggeration in his claims of testing. But we have to keep open the possibility that the weapons are real, if not yet ready for use. Read More

Links – January 23, 2018

Ursula LeGuin has died.

A balanced look at Donald Trump, totalitarianism, and American resilienceAbandoning Science Advice: One Year in, the Trump Administration Is Sidelining Science Advisory Committees.

The Hawaii alert was an accident. The dread it inspired wasn’t.

How homicide charges for two skippers will shake up the entire Navy.

Database: the 270 people connected to the Trump-Russia probes.

North Korea’s Goals are Limited: It couldn’t Absorb South Korea even if it Won a WarBest Advice for Policymakers on “Bloody Nose” Strike against North Korea: It’s Illegal.

Europe Must Fight to Preserve the Iran Deal.

Dmitri Trenin has strong words on Russia’s adventure in Ukraine.

U.S. tests nuclear power system to sustain astronauts on Mars. Top photo of the Kilopower system from this article.