Arms Control Wonk ArmsControlWonk

 

After a series of scandals, incoming Secretary of Defense Ash Carter has some tough choices to make about US nuclear weapons and the future of the so-called “triad” of nuclear delivery system.

Jeffrey and Aaron discuss Carter’s confirmation hearing, Jeffrey’s article in Foreign Policy (The Nuclear Trials of Ashton Carter, Foreign Policy, February 5, 2015), and Janne Nolan’s account of Carter’s role in the Clinton Administration’s 1994 Nuclear Posture Review (see below).

Jeffrey also interviewed Geoff Brumfiel, a science correspondent at National Public Radio, about his reporting on the future of the US ICBM force. Geoff visited the 90th missile wing at F.E. Warren Air Force Base and reported a three-part series for All Things Considered:

Geoff also wrote a pair of very funny blog posts:

After outgoing Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel received a pair of reviews of the nuclear enterprise, Geoff revisited his reporting for All Things Considered:

Reading recommendations:

 
 

On Monday, February 9 and Wednesday, February 11, the Australian parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (JSCOT) will take up Australia’s nuclear cooperation agreement with India. According to a National Interest Statement from the Australian government, the agreement will enter into force after the JSCOT hearing and after parliament finds that the agreement meets Australia’s legal requirements for EIF.

Before lawmakers sign off on the agreement, however, it is possible that on a few points the text will have to be re-negotiated with India and amended.

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Trend lines on the subcontinent have become more pronounced after President Obama’s visit as chief guest at the Republic Day parade and reports of Chinese President’s Xi Jinping’s upcoming visit for Republic Day celebrations in Pakistan. The juxtaposition of Obama’s visit in New Delhi with a near-total power blackout in Pakistan was brutally stark. While Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi were signing up to a new ten-year defense framework agreement, Pakistani Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif was visiting Beijing.

China and Pakistan will remain “all-weather friends,” with Beijing picking up some of the slack of a contracting U.S.-Pakistan relationship. Chinese help with arms co-production and development – presumably a subject of discussion between Gen. Sharif and his hosts – will grow as Washington gravitates more toward New Delhi. None of the joint ventures in defense production announced during Obama’s visit were eye-popping, but this trend is unmistakable and will be given further impetus by incoming Secretary of Defense Ash Carter.

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We love open source. We talk about it all of the time. But it went wrong – like really wrong – in two different instances in recent weeks. Today, Aaron and Jeffrey talk about the dark side of open source and the need for analysts and journalists to be rigorous in how they approach open source work.

Links:

 
 

The most important post-Cold War initiative to reduce nuclear dangers undertaken by the United States has come to a quiet, unceremonious end. Cooperative threat reduction programs to secure loose nukes and reduce surplus force structure in the remnants of the former Soviet Union were the crowning achievements of the distinguished legislative careers of Senators Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar. These programs became necessary and possible only when Moscow was a supplicant and when Washington was generous to a battered rival. Think of a Marshall Plan narrowly tailored to weapons of mass destruction and disruption, and think of recovery in terms of preventing proliferation and nuclear terrorism – and you have the essence of the Nunn-Lugar initiatives.

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No, it’s not a rocket.

An Israeli television station has published a number of satellite images of a launch pad at the Imam Khomeini Space Center near Semnan in Iran that purport to show a new Iranian missile.

One problem: It’s not a rocket.

A simple understanding of how the launch pad works quickly demonstrates that the object in the image cannot be a missile.  It is an architectural element on the gantry, possibly an elevator.

I love satellite photographs, but you have to interpret them in context. It’s important to model the whole facility and understand how it operates. Otherwise, you make big mistakes.

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Some time ago, I came across a funny story — did you know Taiwan tried to disguise cruise missile deployments as delivery trucks?  Guess how well it worked?  Well, you’re reading about it here, aren’t you?

The story was actually reported in near real time in Taiwan.  But I’ve never see a full write up of the cruise missile and the deployment fiasco.  So, I thought I’d write the rare blog post and do a podcast.

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What’s up with Taiwan’s cruise missile program? What in the world compelled the Taiwanese government to deploy the HF-2E in poorly disguised civilian trucks? And how cool is it that Taiwan displayed the HF-2E’s engine?

To get to the bottom of Taiwan’s cruise missile program, Aaron and Jeffrey speak with Dennis Gormley, the author of Missile Contagion and A Low Visibility Force Multiplier, about the proliferation of cruise missiles, the lack of an effective cruise missile defense, and Taiwan’s efforts to date.

 
 

Above: Monument to the Chagai (or Chaghi) Hills nuclear test site, Faizabad Interchange, Islamabad, Pakistan.

What benefits are conferred by nuclear weapons? Do they provide status? Not like in the past. North Korea and Pakistan haven’t gained status by having the Bomb. Instead, they have become more worrisome countries. Do they alleviate security concerns? Possessing nuclear weapons against a similarly-armed foe or against an adversary with stronger conventional capabilities provides a sense of deterrence, dissuasion, and national assurance. To give the Bomb its due, during the Cold War, nuclear weapons helped keep border skirmishes limited between major powers, fostered cautionary behavior in severe crises, and reinforced a natural disinclination to engage in large-scale conventional wars. These were – and remain — significant accomplishments.

But the Bomb always promises more than it delivers. Possessing the Bomb, even in significant numbers, has not deterred limited border clashes between nuclear-armed states, conventional wars with non-nuclear-weapon states, punishing proxy wars and severe crises. The Bomb isn’t stabilizing; it exacerbates security dilemmas and can engender risk taking as well as caution. The Bomb promises advances in security that are quickly undercut by countermeasures taken by wary adversaries.

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We love Serial. But what does it have to with arms control, nonproliferation, and disarmament – nothing, really. So why talk about it? Geospatial analysis, of course.

No, really!

Today, Jeffrey and Aaron speak with Susan Simpson, an associate at the Volkov Law Group (and an expert in national security law), about geospatial analysis and how it relates to the Serial podcast.

The View From LL2 | Thoughts on law, economics, and all things slightly geeky. – Susan’s blog