Arms Control Wonk ArmsControlWonk

 

It has been a while since I wrote here. Since I am too busy, or perhaps too lazy, to write my own updates, I thought it would be nice to forward something Hugh Chalmers wrote on the recent adoption, by consensus, of the safeguards resolution.

Some of you will know that the last year was difficult for those working in the safeguards community. The so-called State-Level Concept (SLC) was under attack.

Now, ever since the Agency adopted the Additional Protocol, it has worked to streamline safeguards implementation and make it more cost-effective. One way in which the secretariat has aspired to do so is by introducing “integrated safeguards.” This work started in 1998. As the Agency itself puts it, the “term refers to the optimum combination of all safeguards measures available to the Agency, including those from the Additional Protocol, to achieve maximum effectiveness and efficiency within the available resources.” The state level concept is part of this overall effort.

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The Selfie Generation doesn’t do arms control. Its cause célèbre is the environment. This grandparent can relate. I am excited and grateful to see how much youthful energy is now directed toward healing our planet’s wounds. I am also very jealous. My cause célèbre has faded. Fewer and fewer people focus on reducing nuclear dangers. Street marches are now about climate change.

Graphic stories of environmental disasters rooted in long-term disregard for carbon emissions, air pollution, and the degradation of water quality are with us every week. A study by the National Climactic Data Center and National Center for Atmospheric Research estimates that the frequency of “billion dollar storms” increases at a rate of roughly five per cent a year, which seems understated. A 2013 report by the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that a rise in temperature of two degrees Celsius will cost up to two per cent of the world’s income by 2050. This UN panel also estimated that the combined cost of crop losses, rising sea levels, higher temperatures and fresh water shortages could amount to between $70 and $100 billion a year. These estimates also appear understated: According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, the insurance industry estimated that climate-related disasters in the United States in 2012 alone resulted in more than $139 billion in damages. The cumulative costs of clean-up after a decade of super storms, droughts, and battered shorelines remind me of the estimated cost consequences for limited nuclear wars back in the 1980s.

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What are the regional perceptions of Iran’s nuclear program? Are the Gulf States obsessed with breakout times and the Arak reactor, or are their concerns more political in nature? Is the United States doing enough to reassure its Gulf Allies about the nuclear negotiations with Iran? Do the Gulfees actually have an Iran nuclear strategy?

Today, Aaron and Jeffrey speak with Dina Esfandiary, a research associate in the Nonproliferation and Disarmament program at the International Institute of Strategic Studies, about the regional perceptions of Iran’s nuclear program.

 
 

For those seeking relief from the news coming out of Syria, Iraq, and Libya, I highly recommend watching The Wind and the Lion, a 1975 flick by John Milius. Sean Connery, at the peak of his powers, plays Mulai Ahmed er Raisuli, an untamed tribal of the Rif, who spirits away a miscast Candice Bergen and her two children. Connery is such a powerful screen presence that he plays the part of a Berber brigand with a Scottish brogue, and all is forgiven. He goes up against another force of nature, President Teddy Roosevelt, played brilliantly by Brian Keith. TR is beginning to feel his age while America is growing into its powers. Acting out of a mix of chivalry and geopolitical opportunity, he sends U.S. expeditionary forces to release the American captives. The fabulous John Huston plays Secretary of State John Hay as a wise and weary man who knows the limits of his persuasive powers when dealing with TR.

Raisuli roams as free as the wind; TR roars like a lion. Each admires what the other enjoys. TR feels confined in the White House; Raisuli has too few muskets and tribesmen to go up against the U.S. Marines. Candice Bergen’s disgust with her captor slowly turns to fascination and attraction, as we fully expect. The movie ends with everyone feeling wistful along with the triumph of the martial American spirit in a strange and distant land.

Hollywood can’t make a movie like this now because audiences are sadder and wiser. Movies about post-9/11 U.S. military campaigns are shaded in darkness and brutality. Even America’s apex heroic moment – settling scores with Osama bin Laden – is depicted in Zero Dark Thirty as an unfair fight enabled by torture. Desert windstorms have become lethal and unpredictable. The lion is a wounded, foreign presence. Those looking for diversion at the movies have moved on to computer-generated images and Marvel superheroes.

 
 

Last week, Dr. Lassina Zerbo, the Executive Secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBO), paid a visit to us at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies.

Dr. Jeffrey Lewis took advantage of Dr. Zerbo’s visit to stop by the Digital Learning Commons and record a special podcast. Drs. Lewis and Zerbo discuss the CTBTO’s monitoring system and the prospects of the entry-into-force of the CTBT.

 
 

Aaron took a long weekend in Istanbul, but Jeffrey and Karl were hard at work!

Jeffrey talks to Christopher Bidwell, a senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists and co-author of a new report, Verifying a Nuclear Agreement with Iran.

The report concludes that any “agreement should require Iran to provide, prior to the next phase of sanctions relief, a comprehensive declaration that is correct and complete concerning all aspects of its nuclear program both current and past.”

Jeffrey recently wrote a column for Foreign Policy arguing that such a disclosure by Iran at the outset might actually be counterproductive. OMG TMI.

Listen to Jeffrey and Chris discuss how much Iran should disclose up front about what its done in the past.

 
 

I have long wanted Allen Thomson to take up blogging.  Allen is one of those old guys — you know, the kind who have forgotten more than you’ll ever know, but aren’t well known from the DC rubber chicken circuit or hanging out in various cable TV green rooms.

If you’re smart, you run stuff by people like Allen, a former intelligence analyst who prepares these little dossiers based on open source information.  He’s latest one is pretty amazing.

Allen has been documenting China’s construction of targets in the Gobi desert for anti-ship missiles:

In the course of a search for possible target areas for the failed Chinese hypersonic glide vehicle test of 2014-08-07 (*), it came to light that two and possibly three areas which appear intended to test antiship weapons recently became identifiable in an area of China previously known to have weapons targets. Although no connection could be made with the hypersonic test, the areas , arbitrarily designated A, B and C, seem to have intrinsic interest and are documented here.

Any further information concerning them would be greatly appreciated. Please email it to thomsona [at] flash.net and indicate whether the sender wishes to be acknowledged in possible future versions of this document.

You should read the whole document, entitled Appearance of Apparent Antiship Missile Targets in Gobi Test Areas during 2013, but here are the comparisons to whet your interest:

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The best definition of the “action-reaction” syndrome was provided by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara during a deeply conflicted speech before United Press International editors and publishers on September 18, 1967. McNamara used this occasion to rail against the nuclear arms race while endorsing a limited ballistic missile defense, ostensibly against China. [Aspiring wonks: to understand why McNamara would deliver a speech undermining his recommended course of action, check out Mort Halperin’s essay, “The Decision to Deploy the ABM: Bureaucratic and Domestic Politics in the Johnson Administration” in the October 1972 issue of World Politics.]

Here are the key passages:

There is a kind of mad momentum intrinsic to the development of all new nuclear weaponry. If a weapon system works – and works well – there is strong pressure from many directions to procure and deploy the weapon out of all proportion to the prudent level required…

What is essential to understand here is that the Soviet Union and the United States mutually influence one another’s strategic plans.

Whatever be their intentions, whatever be our intentions, actions – or even realistically potential actions – on either side relating to the build-up of nuclear forces, be they either offensive or defensive weapons, necessarily trigger reactions on the other side.

It is precisely this action-reaction phenomenon that fuels an arms race.

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Norms are standards of proper or acceptable behavior. They establish expectations and clarify misbehavior, thereby helping to isolate, limit, and sanction bad behavior. Without norms, there are no norm-breakers. They can be codified in treaties and other legal instruments, or they can be less formal, such as those embedded in international codes of conduct. When less-formal norms become customary international practice, they gain standing in international law.

Norms can be particularly helpful when they encourage transparency, because transparency measures can lead to important negotiating breakthroughs. Extraordinary treaties that drastically reduced nuclear forces between the United States and the Soviet Union were enabled by a slightly regarded, multilateral agreement in 1983 in which the Kremlin permitted foreign observers to attend conventional military exercises.

Not everyone will sign up to norms right away, and there will always be outliers. Even so, norms can discourage unwanted behavior, even by holdouts — but not for die-hard outliers. The speed and effectiveness of norm building depends on the attitudes and actions of major powers, not outliers. The most reluctant major power is usually China.

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AS James Acton, Catherine Dill and I prepared our “Crashing Tiger, Hidden Hotspring” post, one of my students, Philippe Mauger, made a number of important observations including offering a possible identification of the rocket engine found among the debris. I asked Philippe to write up some of his observations.

Hypersonic loose ends
A short addendum to the “Crashing Tiger, Hidden Hotspring” piece.

Philippe Mauger

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