A commenter at Balloon Juice asked if I plan to write on the end of the INF Treaty. I hadn’t intended to – there’s an enormous amount of good commentary (Twitter threads here and here) on it – but as I thought about it, I have some thoughts beyond the standard commentary.
First, an overview of the situation.
The Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty was concluded between the US and the USSR in 1987. Both countries had been emplacing missiles in Europe in such a way as to dangerously shorten the warning time for a nuclear attack on Europe or Moscow. The treaty banned a whole class of missiles and largely ended the nuclear terrors of the early 1980s. Read More
I attended a symposium on authoritarianism a week or so ago. Two of the presentations implicitly compared Trump to Adolf Hitler and Hugo Chavez. The parallels are striking. Jay West, retired from teaching Russian history at Middlebury College, spoke about Nazi Germany and the temptations of fascism, something that naturally accompanies Russian history. Charles Shapiro, American ambassador to Venezuela during the Chavez years, spoke about his experience with Chavez.
Hitler, Chavez, and Donald Trump were all elected. Portions of the electorate disapproved of them for one reason or another, but they supported them because they thought they shared common goals and that those elected would be controllable. West and Shapiro gave much longer lists. Read More
I have the good fortune to know Mark Gorwitz. Mark has been around the nuclear and missile world for a while and is extremely skilled at finding obscure reports. We have been corresponding on nuclear ramjets, Project Pluto, and such, and Mark sent me some information he has collected. He asks only that you give proper credit to him and the others named in the report if you share.
This morning’s Presidential tweet storm confirmed a trend I’ve discerned recently.
I’ve had a running (good-natured) argument with other nuke nerds on Twitter about the President’s delusions with regard to North Korea. His tweets and much of the administration action and speech, particularly Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s, seem to revolve around an assumption that Kim Jong Un is ready to give up his nuclear weapons.
However, every official statement from North Korea says otherwise. Kim sees those nuclear weapons as the foundation of his country’s security from meddling by outside powers. North Korea has long used the word “denuclearization” to indicate a state in which they no longer fear attack and thus can give up their nuclear arsenal.
This disjunction is dangerous. It appears that Kim is playing Donald Trump, and Trump is responding. It may mean that Trump will give up alliances with South Korea and Japan for meaningless actions from North Korea. It may mean that at some point he will recognize the disjunction and feel that he has been betrayed by Kim and will allow John Bolton his desire for a war. Read More
Vladimir Putin has claimed that Russia is building a suite of advanced nuclear weapon delivery vehicles – Hypersonic missiles, an underwater drone, a nuclear-powered cruise missile. The American Missile Defense Review is, in part, a response to that.
The new Russian weapons sound amazing! The underwater drone, Putin would have us believe, could sneak up on the east coast of the United States and cause a radioactive tsunami! The nuclear-powered cruise missile could cruise around the globe twice and then nuke Florida!
Putin has shown all that on animated videos. A few frames appear to be actual photos, but the videos are mostly animation. Read More
Aside from three oddball claims that I couldn’t really classify (6, 7, and 19 if you’re counting), it looks to me like the dossier includes 15 claims that are now fully or partially supported and 27 claims for which we have no evidence so far. These 27 claims include a fair amount of insider Kremlin gossip.
What I found most interesting is this: although there’s no public evidence one way or the other for these 27 claims,² there doesn’t appear to be a single claim that we know with certainty is false. There are claims that have been denied by the American participants, but none that we have documentary proof of being mistaken. Partly this is because it’s hard to prove a negative, but it’s still surprising that not a single claim in the report has been conclusively debunked. It’s especially surprising since the dossier is a patchwork of raw intelligence, and even if it was well done by competent professionals you’d still expect it to include at least a few claims that, two years later, we could say were categorically wrong.
It’s time to reconsider the Steele dossier. Not necessarily to show how much Christopher Steele got right or wrong, but because it is a relatively compact collection of information about how the Donald Trump campaign may have worked with the Russians. Looking at it can help to organize the torrent of information coming at us. Read More
When incels started shooting women, it seemed to me that I had read an analysis of something similar. It took me a while, but I recalled Leslie Fiedler’s Love and Death in the American Novel, from the early 1960s. Seems like now might be a good time to look at that book.
In the early 1960s, second-wave feminism was just getting started in the United States. Birth control pills were new. The civil rights movement was ramping up. AIDS and public recognition of gay issues were in the future. I wondered whether Love and Death could still be relevant. I hadn’t read it in a long time and didn’t remember much of it.
I looked it up and bought a copy of the revised edition from 1966. The original was 1960, before Betty Friedan’s Feminine Mystique, although after Simone de Beauvoir’s Second Sex. I skimmed the sections about earlier literature, but the critique of 19th century literature, particularly James Fenimore Cooper, Herman Melville, Henry James, and Mark Twain was clearly relevant. Read More
In this post, I’m going to take a 40,000-foot view of the Khashoggi affair, to clarify some things as the Trump propaganda machine swings into action.
Jamal Khashoggi was a citizen of Saudi Arabia and resident of the United States. He was a critic of the Saudi regime and a columnist for the Washington Post. On October 2, he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and has not been seen since. A 15-man Saudi group, including a forensic pathologist with a bone saw, entered Turkey just before Khashoggi disappeared and left just afterwards. The Saudi consul has left Turkey and has not been available to the press. Evidence is available that suggests that Khashoggi was tortured, killed, and dismembered.
Official statements from the Saudi government have denied that they had anything to do with Khashoggi’s probable murder. Government statements have also threatened economic and political retaliation. Read More
Donald Trump says he told John Bolton when he hired him as National Security Advisor, “No, no wars.” But Bolton is a smart man who knows how to operate in the government to get his way. And his way is unabated hostility to the rest of the world. He has recently condemned the International Court of Justice. He supported the Iraq war. He is an advocate of preventive war against Iran and North Korea.
But the Jamal Khashoggi murder is standing in the way of a war against Iran. John Bolton must be sad. And, probably, working hard to find a way through this crisis. Read More