Commentary Magazine


Topic: nuclear device

Flotsam and Jetsam

This isn’t going to win over the critics who say she lacks political judgment. “Sarah Palin dismissed Barbara Bush’s recent criticism as a matter of class privilege. … ‘I don’t want to concede that we have to get used to this kind of thing, because i don’t think the majority of Americans want to put up with the blue-bloods — and i want to say it with all due respect because I love the Bushes — the blue bloods who want to pick and chose their winners instead of allowing competition’ … Palin also suggested that the Bushes upper-class status had contributed to ‘the economic policies that were in place that got us into these economic woeful times.'” Whatever you think of Bush 41, this isn’t what a presidential candidate should sound like.

This is going to give “strategic patience” (otherwise known as paralysis) a bad name. “North Korea’s latest round of saber rattling leaves a politically weakened President Obama with several unpalatable options for dealing with the unstable nuclear power. The North Korean shelling of a South Korean island follows the revelation of a new centrifuge plant that could eventually allow the North to add to its nuclear stockpile. Both developments suggest the Obama administration’s policy of’ ‘strategic patience’ with North Korea is having little impact on the regime, which is focused on the transition of power from Kim Jong-il to his son, Kim Jong-un.”

This isn’t going to help the White House scare the Senate into a ratification vote: Jamie Fly writes: “New START is a rather meaningless arms-control agreement notable more for what it fails to do than what it achieves. … There remains serious criticism of New START’s merits on the right, and it is troubling that the administration is attempting to argue that Republicans such as Sen. Jon Kyl are interested only in killing the treaty. Kyl and a majority of his colleagues are just asking for more time to explore their concerns about the treaty and continue discussions with administration officials about funding levels for modernization of the U.S. nuclear stockpile. From the rhetoric of the administration and its surrogates, one would believe that if New START is not ratified by the end of the year, nuclear weapons will suddenly fall into the hands of terrorists.”

This is a sign that no one is going to bat for Joe Miller. “Former Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman had some unsolicited advice for fellow Republican Joe Miller: It’s time to quit.”

This verdict isn’t going to provoke much sympathy from conservatives. Tom DeLay is the type of pol the Tea Party despises, and his politics is the sort Republican lawmakers need to repudiate.

This wasn’t going to happen with Obama’s “smart diplomacy”: “When North Korea tested a nuclear device last year, China issued bland criticism and urged Pyongyang to resume diplomacy. After a South Korean navy ship was sunk, most likely by a North Korean torpedo, Beijing sent its sympathies but called the evidence inconclusive. Now that North Korea has unleashed an artillery barrage on a South Korean island that killed four people — including two civilians — and raised tensions in the heavily armed region, Beijing again appears unwilling to rein in its neighbor.”

This lame duck session isn’t going to be what the Dems had hoped. “Not so long ago, the great fear was that the Democratic Party would return from its midterm drubbing to jam all manner of odious legislation through a lame duck session of Congress. We may need to put that in the ‘wasted worry’ category.”

This isn’t going to win over the critics who say she lacks political judgment. “Sarah Palin dismissed Barbara Bush’s recent criticism as a matter of class privilege. … ‘I don’t want to concede that we have to get used to this kind of thing, because i don’t think the majority of Americans want to put up with the blue-bloods — and i want to say it with all due respect because I love the Bushes — the blue bloods who want to pick and chose their winners instead of allowing competition’ … Palin also suggested that the Bushes upper-class status had contributed to ‘the economic policies that were in place that got us into these economic woeful times.'” Whatever you think of Bush 41, this isn’t what a presidential candidate should sound like.

This is going to give “strategic patience” (otherwise known as paralysis) a bad name. “North Korea’s latest round of saber rattling leaves a politically weakened President Obama with several unpalatable options for dealing with the unstable nuclear power. The North Korean shelling of a South Korean island follows the revelation of a new centrifuge plant that could eventually allow the North to add to its nuclear stockpile. Both developments suggest the Obama administration’s policy of’ ‘strategic patience’ with North Korea is having little impact on the regime, which is focused on the transition of power from Kim Jong-il to his son, Kim Jong-un.”

This isn’t going to help the White House scare the Senate into a ratification vote: Jamie Fly writes: “New START is a rather meaningless arms-control agreement notable more for what it fails to do than what it achieves. … There remains serious criticism of New START’s merits on the right, and it is troubling that the administration is attempting to argue that Republicans such as Sen. Jon Kyl are interested only in killing the treaty. Kyl and a majority of his colleagues are just asking for more time to explore their concerns about the treaty and continue discussions with administration officials about funding levels for modernization of the U.S. nuclear stockpile. From the rhetoric of the administration and its surrogates, one would believe that if New START is not ratified by the end of the year, nuclear weapons will suddenly fall into the hands of terrorists.”

This is a sign that no one is going to bat for Joe Miller. “Former Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman had some unsolicited advice for fellow Republican Joe Miller: It’s time to quit.”

This verdict isn’t going to provoke much sympathy from conservatives. Tom DeLay is the type of pol the Tea Party despises, and his politics is the sort Republican lawmakers need to repudiate.

This wasn’t going to happen with Obama’s “smart diplomacy”: “When North Korea tested a nuclear device last year, China issued bland criticism and urged Pyongyang to resume diplomacy. After a South Korean navy ship was sunk, most likely by a North Korean torpedo, Beijing sent its sympathies but called the evidence inconclusive. Now that North Korea has unleashed an artillery barrage on a South Korean island that killed four people — including two civilians — and raised tensions in the heavily armed region, Beijing again appears unwilling to rein in its neighbor.”

This lame duck session isn’t going to be what the Dems had hoped. “Not so long ago, the great fear was that the Democratic Party would return from its midterm drubbing to jam all manner of odious legislation through a lame duck session of Congress. We may need to put that in the ‘wasted worry’ category.”

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After Triumph with Russia on Iran, Obama Signals Return to Appeasement

In his 20 months in office, Barack Obama hasn’t had many foreign-policy triumphs to crow about. But yesterday when he spoke to the United Nations General Assembly, for once the president could cite an actual diplomatic achievement for his administration. Russia’s announcement that it will not honor the contract it had signed to sell S-300 missiles to Iran showed that efforts undertaken by Obama to sweet-talk Moscow out of acting as an enabler for the rogue regime in Tehran have not been completely in vain.

Stopping the sale of these weapons had been an urgent issue for both the United States and Israel. Had they been deployed by the Iranians, those missiles would have acted as the centerpiece of an air-defense system that would have posed a formidable obstacle to any effort to knock out the Iranians’ nuclear-weapons program from the air. Russia’s willingness to join in the ban on arms sales to Iran puts some teeth in the otherwise mild sanctions that the international community has placed on Tehran.

But despite this setback, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad can’t be too downhearted about the way things have been going for his despotic regime during the UN jamboree in New York this week. Just when the Russian announcement gave Obama something to brag about, the administration was sending signals that it was prepared to step back from its recent tough talk about bringing Iran to heel.

The New York Times reports that: “At a meeting today with France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China, diplomats planned what one senior American official described to reporters as a ‘phased approach’ that would include reviving an earlier proposal to supply Iran with enriched fuel for a research reactor in Tehran in return for Iran’s shipping the bulk of its stockpile of uranium to Russia and France. ‘We’re prepared to engage and see if we can’t produce what would be a confidence-building step,’ said a senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity.”

Thus, just when it seemed as if he were making some real progress on isolating Iran, Obama sends Ahmadinejad a signal that he is in no real trouble after all. Dating back to the Bush administration’s own feckless diplomacy on Iran’s nukes, Tehran has happily exploited the West’s efforts to appease it. Every initiative that sought to cajole or bribe the Islamist tyranny to back away from its nuclear ambitions has been welcomed by the ayatollahs. They were only too happy to string European or American diplomats along to buy more time in order to get closer to the day when they could announce their possession of a nuclear device. Last year, the Iranians agreed to a porous deal that called for the export of their uranium stockpile. But then, when it suited them, they repudiated it, leaving Obama and the rest of his foreign-policy team with egg on their faces. As with the rest of Obama’s pathetic attempt to “engage” Iran, such initiatives only convinced Tehran that the new American president was not to be taken seriously. With non-military trade with Russia still booming and with neighboring Turkey’s Islamic government providing Ahmadinejad with a reliable ally and trading partner, the Iranians understand that the UN sanctions are inconvenient but not crippling. And so long as Obama is still wedded to the absurd idea that he can talk them out of their nuclear plans, the Iranians have to be thinking that it will soon be too late for anyone to stop them from gaining a nuclear weapon.

In his 20 months in office, Barack Obama hasn’t had many foreign-policy triumphs to crow about. But yesterday when he spoke to the United Nations General Assembly, for once the president could cite an actual diplomatic achievement for his administration. Russia’s announcement that it will not honor the contract it had signed to sell S-300 missiles to Iran showed that efforts undertaken by Obama to sweet-talk Moscow out of acting as an enabler for the rogue regime in Tehran have not been completely in vain.

Stopping the sale of these weapons had been an urgent issue for both the United States and Israel. Had they been deployed by the Iranians, those missiles would have acted as the centerpiece of an air-defense system that would have posed a formidable obstacle to any effort to knock out the Iranians’ nuclear-weapons program from the air. Russia’s willingness to join in the ban on arms sales to Iran puts some teeth in the otherwise mild sanctions that the international community has placed on Tehran.

But despite this setback, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad can’t be too downhearted about the way things have been going for his despotic regime during the UN jamboree in New York this week. Just when the Russian announcement gave Obama something to brag about, the administration was sending signals that it was prepared to step back from its recent tough talk about bringing Iran to heel.

The New York Times reports that: “At a meeting today with France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China, diplomats planned what one senior American official described to reporters as a ‘phased approach’ that would include reviving an earlier proposal to supply Iran with enriched fuel for a research reactor in Tehran in return for Iran’s shipping the bulk of its stockpile of uranium to Russia and France. ‘We’re prepared to engage and see if we can’t produce what would be a confidence-building step,’ said a senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity.”

Thus, just when it seemed as if he were making some real progress on isolating Iran, Obama sends Ahmadinejad a signal that he is in no real trouble after all. Dating back to the Bush administration’s own feckless diplomacy on Iran’s nukes, Tehran has happily exploited the West’s efforts to appease it. Every initiative that sought to cajole or bribe the Islamist tyranny to back away from its nuclear ambitions has been welcomed by the ayatollahs. They were only too happy to string European or American diplomats along to buy more time in order to get closer to the day when they could announce their possession of a nuclear device. Last year, the Iranians agreed to a porous deal that called for the export of their uranium stockpile. But then, when it suited them, they repudiated it, leaving Obama and the rest of his foreign-policy team with egg on their faces. As with the rest of Obama’s pathetic attempt to “engage” Iran, such initiatives only convinced Tehran that the new American president was not to be taken seriously. With non-military trade with Russia still booming and with neighboring Turkey’s Islamic government providing Ahmadinejad with a reliable ally and trading partner, the Iranians understand that the UN sanctions are inconvenient but not crippling. And so long as Obama is still wedded to the absurd idea that he can talk them out of their nuclear plans, the Iranians have to be thinking that it will soon be too late for anyone to stop them from gaining a nuclear weapon.

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Nukes Don’t Kill People

If you’ve seen the 1995 Rob Reiner movie The American President, with Michael Douglas as the title character, you recognize the Obama posture at this week’s nuclear summit. I saw the movie at a theater in Dallas and have told the story many times about its political punch lines falling flat with the Texas audience. There was the line uttered by Annette Bening, the female lead and presidential love interest, about turning any car with an internal combustion engine into a collector’s item. That produced only a restless silence. And there was this passage from the rousing, climactic speech delivered by Douglas in the final minutes of the movie:

You cannot address crime prevention without getting rid of assault weapons and handguns. I consider them a threat to national security, and I will go door to door if I have to, but I’m gonna convince Americans that I’m right, and I’m gonna get the guns.

The Hollywood Congress onscreen applauded uproariously, but these lines got no appreciation from the Texas movie crowd. A good three-fourths of it would, I suspect, have informed screenwriter Aaron Sorkin that guns don’t kill people — people kill people.

Barack Obama has believed, since his undergraduate days in the Nuclear Freeze movement, that nukes kill people. He may honestly think you cannot address global security without getting rid of enriched nuclear material; it’s hard to say. But he’s gonna get the nukes.

And so, like a mayor trumpeting a handgun turn-in program, he is getting the nukes out of the hands of the law-abiding. His takers to date include Ukraine, which will reportedly turn its enriched uranium over to Russia; Chile, which had already concluded an agreement to send its high-enriched uranium — used for nuclear reactors — to the U.S.; and Mexico, which will accept help from the U.S. and Canada to convert its reactors from high-enriched uranium to lower-enriched fuel.

Many commentators have pointed out that it makes little sense to hold a nuclear summit in 2010 and give scant attention to Iran, North Korea, and unstable Pakistan. But that perspective assumes a moral and prioritized approach to the problem: one that recognizes the motives of the human actors most likely to have weaponized nuclear components at their disposal in the near future.

Obama’s prophylactic approach, by contrast, is abstract, bureaucratic, and incremental. It weighs the problem by the kiloton of enriched uranium, as the anti-gun left weighs the crime problem by the number of .38 Specials not yet confiscated from the public. From this perspective, any transfer of physical material from one form of custody to another can be seen as a big, important step in the right direction.

But such symbolic physical transfers are important only if our most immediate global security threat really is terrorists, in the generic, getting hold of enriched uranium that could be anywhere. We have good reason to conclude otherwise. Islamic terrorists are much more likely to get nuclear material from Pakistan, Iran, or North Korea than from any other source. In the race to assemble a nuclear device that can be used against Israel, North America, or Europe, Iran holds the lead over any terrorist group. North Korea, meanwhile, can already range South Korea and Japan with a nuclear weapon.

Our greatest nuclear threat is not addressed at all by the uranium transfers commemorated with such fanfare at this week’s summit. The Obama administration would do well to heed the skeptical wisdom of Texas film audiences and remember that nukes don’t kill people; people kill people.

If you’ve seen the 1995 Rob Reiner movie The American President, with Michael Douglas as the title character, you recognize the Obama posture at this week’s nuclear summit. I saw the movie at a theater in Dallas and have told the story many times about its political punch lines falling flat with the Texas audience. There was the line uttered by Annette Bening, the female lead and presidential love interest, about turning any car with an internal combustion engine into a collector’s item. That produced only a restless silence. And there was this passage from the rousing, climactic speech delivered by Douglas in the final minutes of the movie:

You cannot address crime prevention without getting rid of assault weapons and handguns. I consider them a threat to national security, and I will go door to door if I have to, but I’m gonna convince Americans that I’m right, and I’m gonna get the guns.

The Hollywood Congress onscreen applauded uproariously, but these lines got no appreciation from the Texas movie crowd. A good three-fourths of it would, I suspect, have informed screenwriter Aaron Sorkin that guns don’t kill people — people kill people.

Barack Obama has believed, since his undergraduate days in the Nuclear Freeze movement, that nukes kill people. He may honestly think you cannot address global security without getting rid of enriched nuclear material; it’s hard to say. But he’s gonna get the nukes.

And so, like a mayor trumpeting a handgun turn-in program, he is getting the nukes out of the hands of the law-abiding. His takers to date include Ukraine, which will reportedly turn its enriched uranium over to Russia; Chile, which had already concluded an agreement to send its high-enriched uranium — used for nuclear reactors — to the U.S.; and Mexico, which will accept help from the U.S. and Canada to convert its reactors from high-enriched uranium to lower-enriched fuel.

Many commentators have pointed out that it makes little sense to hold a nuclear summit in 2010 and give scant attention to Iran, North Korea, and unstable Pakistan. But that perspective assumes a moral and prioritized approach to the problem: one that recognizes the motives of the human actors most likely to have weaponized nuclear components at their disposal in the near future.

Obama’s prophylactic approach, by contrast, is abstract, bureaucratic, and incremental. It weighs the problem by the kiloton of enriched uranium, as the anti-gun left weighs the crime problem by the number of .38 Specials not yet confiscated from the public. From this perspective, any transfer of physical material from one form of custody to another can be seen as a big, important step in the right direction.

But such symbolic physical transfers are important only if our most immediate global security threat really is terrorists, in the generic, getting hold of enriched uranium that could be anywhere. We have good reason to conclude otherwise. Islamic terrorists are much more likely to get nuclear material from Pakistan, Iran, or North Korea than from any other source. In the race to assemble a nuclear device that can be used against Israel, North America, or Europe, Iran holds the lead over any terrorist group. North Korea, meanwhile, can already range South Korea and Japan with a nuclear weapon.

Our greatest nuclear threat is not addressed at all by the uranium transfers commemorated with such fanfare at this week’s summit. The Obama administration would do well to heed the skeptical wisdom of Texas film audiences and remember that nukes don’t kill people; people kill people.

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A Nuclear Iran No Big Deal?

As he has before, Obama made clear today that he is very worried about terrorists’ getting hold of nuclear weapons:

Groups like al Qaeda are working hard to acquire nuclear weapons, and “if they ever succeed, they would surely use it,” President Barack Obama said while speaking to more than 40 world leaders Tuesday.

Obama, addressing the opening plenary session of the nuclear security summit in Washington, asked his foreign counterparts to join together “not simply to talk, but to act.”

Hmm. Isn’t the most likely conduit for terrorists a nuclear-armed Iran? No, no. Obama assures us that the risks from other nuclear-armed states has gone down. No, really:

Obama said that 20 years after the end of the Cold War, the world faces “a cruel irony”: that the risk of “a nuclear confrontation between nations has gone down, but the risk of a nuclear attack has gone up.”

“Nuclear materials that could be sold or stolen and fashioned into a nuclear weapon exist in dozens of nations,” Obama said in excerpts released by the White House. “Just the smallest amount of plutonium — about the size of an apple — could kill and injure hundreds of thousands of innocent people.”

Obama warned that if al Qaeda or other extremist groups were able to successfully use a nuclear device, it “would be a catastrophe for the world — causing extraordinary loss of life and striking a major blow at global peace and stability.”

The cruel irony here is that we have a president pledging devotion to nonproliferation who has disclaimed interest in a military strike against the greatest potential nuclear threat we face and who is trying to pass off watered-down sanctions as an effective response to the mullahs’ nuclear ambitions. Obama called for a “new mindset” and pooh-poohed mere “pledges.” Fair enough. Then why not a firm and unconditional statement that the U.S. will do whatever it takes to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran? Why not encourage Congress to proceed with refined-petroleum sanctions and to make clear to the Russians and Chinese that their support for only gruel-thin sanctions is insufficient? Well, he seems to think Iran’s not really the problem — or that’s the latest gambit to deflect from his failed Iran policy.

Obama is painting himself into a corner with his high-flying rhetoric. Should he permit Iran — the most significant state sponsor of terrorist groups — to attain their nuclear ambitions (a likely outcome unless his policy changes dramatically), he will rightly be identified as the president who most endangered not only Israel’s security but ours as well. Frankly, if Iran goes nuclear, no one is going to buy the notion that it’s no big deal and that the name of the game then is to keep Iran from giving the nukes to their surrogates. Obama’s suggestion that we really need not worry about nation-states is once again confirmation of his unseriousness about thwarting Iran’s nuclear plans.

As he has before, Obama made clear today that he is very worried about terrorists’ getting hold of nuclear weapons:

Groups like al Qaeda are working hard to acquire nuclear weapons, and “if they ever succeed, they would surely use it,” President Barack Obama said while speaking to more than 40 world leaders Tuesday.

Obama, addressing the opening plenary session of the nuclear security summit in Washington, asked his foreign counterparts to join together “not simply to talk, but to act.”

Hmm. Isn’t the most likely conduit for terrorists a nuclear-armed Iran? No, no. Obama assures us that the risks from other nuclear-armed states has gone down. No, really:

Obama said that 20 years after the end of the Cold War, the world faces “a cruel irony”: that the risk of “a nuclear confrontation between nations has gone down, but the risk of a nuclear attack has gone up.”

“Nuclear materials that could be sold or stolen and fashioned into a nuclear weapon exist in dozens of nations,” Obama said in excerpts released by the White House. “Just the smallest amount of plutonium — about the size of an apple — could kill and injure hundreds of thousands of innocent people.”

Obama warned that if al Qaeda or other extremist groups were able to successfully use a nuclear device, it “would be a catastrophe for the world — causing extraordinary loss of life and striking a major blow at global peace and stability.”

The cruel irony here is that we have a president pledging devotion to nonproliferation who has disclaimed interest in a military strike against the greatest potential nuclear threat we face and who is trying to pass off watered-down sanctions as an effective response to the mullahs’ nuclear ambitions. Obama called for a “new mindset” and pooh-poohed mere “pledges.” Fair enough. Then why not a firm and unconditional statement that the U.S. will do whatever it takes to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran? Why not encourage Congress to proceed with refined-petroleum sanctions and to make clear to the Russians and Chinese that their support for only gruel-thin sanctions is insufficient? Well, he seems to think Iran’s not really the problem — or that’s the latest gambit to deflect from his failed Iran policy.

Obama is painting himself into a corner with his high-flying rhetoric. Should he permit Iran — the most significant state sponsor of terrorist groups — to attain their nuclear ambitions (a likely outcome unless his policy changes dramatically), he will rightly be identified as the president who most endangered not only Israel’s security but ours as well. Frankly, if Iran goes nuclear, no one is going to buy the notion that it’s no big deal and that the name of the game then is to keep Iran from giving the nukes to their surrogates. Obama’s suggestion that we really need not worry about nation-states is once again confirmation of his unseriousness about thwarting Iran’s nuclear plans.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Obama loses to the movement ridiculed by the chattering class: “On major issues, 48% of voters say that the average Tea Party member is closer to their views than President Barack Obama. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 44% hold the opposite view and believe the president’s views are closer to their own.”

And the movement sort of looks like America, according to Gallup: “Tea Party supporters skew right politically; but demographically, they are generally representative of the public at large. … Tea Party supporters are decidedly Republican and conservative in their leanings. Also, compared with average Americans, supporters are slightly more likely to be male and less likely to be lower-income. … In several other respects, however — their age, educational background, employment status, and race — Tea Partiers are quite representative of the public at large.” In other words, they are pretty much like all the other voters Obama ignores.

Tom Goldstein’s reading the Supreme Court retirement tea leaves: “To clear up any remaining ambiguity, if you believe or hear anyone else say that Justice Ginsburg may retire this summer, this is the appropriate response: Will. Not. Happen. No other member of the Court has any reason to retire either. By all accounts, each of the Justices is in good health. All of them feel an obligation to serve. Although the Court is divided, it’s not Congress; none is going to pull an Evan Bayh and walk away. Justice Souter’s perspective on his role and tenure was unique. And it’s a good job, so few people want to give it up. (If offered it, you should take it.)”

Liberal reporters discover Obama is a phony.

Robert Gibbs finally says something both funny and true: “I think Michael Steele’s problem isn’t the race card; it’s the credit card.”

Obama vs. Bob McDonnell: “In Washington, President Obama is borrowing, taxing, and spending with abandon — with little apparent concern about the long-term consequences of his unprecedented expansion of government control of the economy and the claims it will make on future earnings of the American people. The president’s agenda relies on one-party power and minimal attempts at compromise. In Richmond, on the other hand, Gov. Bob McDonnell has just closed a $4 billion budget deficit without raising taxes. To do so, he made significant cuts in a budget that had expanded by more than 70 percent in a decade — better than 28 percent for every citizen in Virginia (in inflation-adjusted dollars).”

Gabriel Schoenfeld on Obama’s Iran policy: “The Obama administration is dithering. Bent upon getting a Security Council resolution rather than assembling a coalition of the willing, the White House and American policy is being held hostage by Russia and most of all by China. Here’s an informed prediction: if Beijing does come around and support a new round of sanctions, it will be hailed by the White House as a major breakthrough: peace in our time. But the actual sanctions will be weak to worthless. China has too much at stake in Iran as a source of energy. It also sees an opportunity to poke us in the eye. … One question that should be asked is what we will say the day after Iran tests its first nuclear device.”

Obama loses to the movement ridiculed by the chattering class: “On major issues, 48% of voters say that the average Tea Party member is closer to their views than President Barack Obama. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 44% hold the opposite view and believe the president’s views are closer to their own.”

And the movement sort of looks like America, according to Gallup: “Tea Party supporters skew right politically; but demographically, they are generally representative of the public at large. … Tea Party supporters are decidedly Republican and conservative in their leanings. Also, compared with average Americans, supporters are slightly more likely to be male and less likely to be lower-income. … In several other respects, however — their age, educational background, employment status, and race — Tea Partiers are quite representative of the public at large.” In other words, they are pretty much like all the other voters Obama ignores.

Tom Goldstein’s reading the Supreme Court retirement tea leaves: “To clear up any remaining ambiguity, if you believe or hear anyone else say that Justice Ginsburg may retire this summer, this is the appropriate response: Will. Not. Happen. No other member of the Court has any reason to retire either. By all accounts, each of the Justices is in good health. All of them feel an obligation to serve. Although the Court is divided, it’s not Congress; none is going to pull an Evan Bayh and walk away. Justice Souter’s perspective on his role and tenure was unique. And it’s a good job, so few people want to give it up. (If offered it, you should take it.)”

Liberal reporters discover Obama is a phony.

Robert Gibbs finally says something both funny and true: “I think Michael Steele’s problem isn’t the race card; it’s the credit card.”

Obama vs. Bob McDonnell: “In Washington, President Obama is borrowing, taxing, and spending with abandon — with little apparent concern about the long-term consequences of his unprecedented expansion of government control of the economy and the claims it will make on future earnings of the American people. The president’s agenda relies on one-party power and minimal attempts at compromise. In Richmond, on the other hand, Gov. Bob McDonnell has just closed a $4 billion budget deficit without raising taxes. To do so, he made significant cuts in a budget that had expanded by more than 70 percent in a decade — better than 28 percent for every citizen in Virginia (in inflation-adjusted dollars).”

Gabriel Schoenfeld on Obama’s Iran policy: “The Obama administration is dithering. Bent upon getting a Security Council resolution rather than assembling a coalition of the willing, the White House and American policy is being held hostage by Russia and most of all by China. Here’s an informed prediction: if Beijing does come around and support a new round of sanctions, it will be hailed by the White House as a major breakthrough: peace in our time. But the actual sanctions will be weak to worthless. China has too much at stake in Iran as a source of energy. It also sees an opportunity to poke us in the eye. … One question that should be asked is what we will say the day after Iran tests its first nuclear device.”

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Obama’s Three-Part Path to Failure on Iran

Barack Obama’s friends at the New York Times give us an insight into the president’s strategy for rallying the world behind his Iran policy. In an op-ed by David Sanger that is given the always misleading label of “news analysis” and published in the paper’s news section, we learn that Obama has a three-pronged approach to Iran: first, win international support for tough sanctions; second, win over the Chinese; and third, stop Israel from attacking Iran.

But despite the Times’s puffery, this is nothing but a three-way path to total failure. Failure, that is, if the goal is to prevent Iran from gaining a nuclear device, as seems certain unless something drastic happens.

Despite the lip service being paid to wider support for sanctions this week in the wake of Iran’s latest provocation — their decision to openly begin enriching uranium for nuclear fuel — the odds that Obama’s low-key approach to Iran will lead to the sort of sanctions that could hurt Iran’s economy and punish the regime so much that it would either give in or be toppled are slim and none. After a year of nonstop talk about talking and deadlines that passed with nothing happening, how can anyone, even those European countries that are actually inclined to support tough sanctions, believe that Obama means business now? And so long as neither Russia nor China supports such sanctions, a UN backing for any real measure is impossible. Right now the Russians are being coy about their opposition, while the Chinese are quite open about theirs, yet both are more interested in thwarting the United States than they are in restraining Tehran.

As for stopping Israel from taking any action to defend itself against the threat of annihilation from an Islamist regime that has spoken of such a crime as a goal, the inclusion of this point in Obama’s three-part plan seems to indicate that his real goal is learning to live with an Iranian bomb, not stopping one. The hucksterism of foreign-policy snake-oil salesmen who urge just such an approach is getting louder and louder, with the op-ed page of the Times providing space for such voices on a regular basis.

The defense for Obama’s feckless diplomacy put forward in the Times article is that Obama had to spend at least a year trying diplomacy so as to convince the world that he tried engagement after the confrontational Bush years. Blaming Bush is Obama’s all-purpose political tactic, but it won’t wash here. Bush not only failed to confront Iran; he also outsourced our diplomatic efforts on the nuclear issue to France and Germany in his second term. The utter failure of his engagement effort was clear by Bush’s last year in office, but rather than face the issue and take action, he decided to pass it off on his successor. This James Buchanan–like approach to a critical issue was one of Bush’s genuine failures, and the fact that he spent 2008 similarly vetoing any Israel action on Iran only makes Obama’s dedication to the same cause both ironic and scary. But however badly Bush blundered on Iran, the idea that we needed an additional year of diplomatic failure to justify subsequent action is a joke.

The problem here with Obama’s painful dithering for the past 12 months is not just that we have wasted a precious year that the Iranians used to get closer to their nuclear goal while the West did nothing to stop them. It is that this year of engagement, during which the Islamist leaders of Iran brutally repressed domestic dissenters while Obama refused to speak up for regime change, has convinced the Iranians that Obama is a weakling whose rhetoric will never be backed up by action. At the same time, the engagement process has not only paralyzed momentum for tough sanctions in the West but also lowered the bar for the sorts of sanctions that are to be pursued. Rather than a crippling economic boycott that would stop the flow of oil into or out of Iran, now we are supposed to believe that limited measures aimed only at the Revolutionary Guards will work. The point is, even if Obama were to unite the West behind such a plan — something that would take months to pass and then further time to implement — it wouldn’t be anywhere close to being enough to hurt Tehran, let alone convince it that it must back down.

Obama’s three-point plan is not a path to success on Iran. It is, instead, a plan to allow him to justify failure.

Barack Obama’s friends at the New York Times give us an insight into the president’s strategy for rallying the world behind his Iran policy. In an op-ed by David Sanger that is given the always misleading label of “news analysis” and published in the paper’s news section, we learn that Obama has a three-pronged approach to Iran: first, win international support for tough sanctions; second, win over the Chinese; and third, stop Israel from attacking Iran.

But despite the Times’s puffery, this is nothing but a three-way path to total failure. Failure, that is, if the goal is to prevent Iran from gaining a nuclear device, as seems certain unless something drastic happens.

Despite the lip service being paid to wider support for sanctions this week in the wake of Iran’s latest provocation — their decision to openly begin enriching uranium for nuclear fuel — the odds that Obama’s low-key approach to Iran will lead to the sort of sanctions that could hurt Iran’s economy and punish the regime so much that it would either give in or be toppled are slim and none. After a year of nonstop talk about talking and deadlines that passed with nothing happening, how can anyone, even those European countries that are actually inclined to support tough sanctions, believe that Obama means business now? And so long as neither Russia nor China supports such sanctions, a UN backing for any real measure is impossible. Right now the Russians are being coy about their opposition, while the Chinese are quite open about theirs, yet both are more interested in thwarting the United States than they are in restraining Tehran.

As for stopping Israel from taking any action to defend itself against the threat of annihilation from an Islamist regime that has spoken of such a crime as a goal, the inclusion of this point in Obama’s three-part plan seems to indicate that his real goal is learning to live with an Iranian bomb, not stopping one. The hucksterism of foreign-policy snake-oil salesmen who urge just such an approach is getting louder and louder, with the op-ed page of the Times providing space for such voices on a regular basis.

The defense for Obama’s feckless diplomacy put forward in the Times article is that Obama had to spend at least a year trying diplomacy so as to convince the world that he tried engagement after the confrontational Bush years. Blaming Bush is Obama’s all-purpose political tactic, but it won’t wash here. Bush not only failed to confront Iran; he also outsourced our diplomatic efforts on the nuclear issue to France and Germany in his second term. The utter failure of his engagement effort was clear by Bush’s last year in office, but rather than face the issue and take action, he decided to pass it off on his successor. This James Buchanan–like approach to a critical issue was one of Bush’s genuine failures, and the fact that he spent 2008 similarly vetoing any Israel action on Iran only makes Obama’s dedication to the same cause both ironic and scary. But however badly Bush blundered on Iran, the idea that we needed an additional year of diplomatic failure to justify subsequent action is a joke.

The problem here with Obama’s painful dithering for the past 12 months is not just that we have wasted a precious year that the Iranians used to get closer to their nuclear goal while the West did nothing to stop them. It is that this year of engagement, during which the Islamist leaders of Iran brutally repressed domestic dissenters while Obama refused to speak up for regime change, has convinced the Iranians that Obama is a weakling whose rhetoric will never be backed up by action. At the same time, the engagement process has not only paralyzed momentum for tough sanctions in the West but also lowered the bar for the sorts of sanctions that are to be pursued. Rather than a crippling economic boycott that would stop the flow of oil into or out of Iran, now we are supposed to believe that limited measures aimed only at the Revolutionary Guards will work. The point is, even if Obama were to unite the West behind such a plan — something that would take months to pass and then further time to implement — it wouldn’t be anywhere close to being enough to hurt Tehran, let alone convince it that it must back down.

Obama’s three-point plan is not a path to success on Iran. It is, instead, a plan to allow him to justify failure.

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Iran’s Nuclear Clock Moves Ahead Another Hour

Thirty-eight days past Washington’s January 1 deadline for Iran to respond to frequent calls for negotiations on its nuclear-weapons program, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad once again thumbed his nose at Barack Obama. Speaking on live TV, the Iranian president told the country’s atomic energy chief, Ali Akbar Salehi, to “please start 20 percent enrichment” of uranium into nuclear fuel. While both Ahmadinejad and Salehi spoke of the move as part of previously failed negotiations in which the West would accept the continuance of the Iranian program as long as it agreed to exchange its own nuclear material for enriched uranium from another country, the point of the announcement was to force the West to back away from sanctions on Iran. But given the ignominious failure of previous attempts to work out such a deal and, as even Secretary of Defense Robert Gates pointed out this weekend, Iran’s clear unwillingness to abide by any such rules, there is no point to talks along these lines.

But Iran’s announcement has a double meaning. While clearly provocative, a New York Times report speculates that it also intended to serve as cover for China and Russia to continue to support further negotiations about fuel exchange so as to avoid United Nations sanctions. The Obama administration wasted much of the past year trying to prove that the president’s belief in “engagement” with rogue regimes was smarter than attempts to confront or isolate them. All that has accomplished is to give the Iranians another year to plan, build, and scheme while undermining the notion that there is anything like an international consensus that will stop them.

There are those who argue that the Iranians are still bluffing with their talk of 20 percent enrichment. We don’t know whether that’s true, but given the way the regime has managed to brutally crush internal dissent, as well as foil Obama’s attempt to get China and Russia to join a sanctions coalition, Ahmadinejad has good reason to be feeling confident these days. At this point, the best the world can hope for is that after several more months of failed diplomacy, perhaps America, Britain, France, and Germany will announce some sort of less-than-crippling-sanctions plan that everyone knows Iran will be able to easily evade. Such a plan will, no doubt, be trumpeted by the administration as a triumph of Obama’s leadership. But the fact remains that his dithering has strengthened Iran’s belief that no one can stop it. All of which means that announcements such as Ahmadinejad’s talk on Iran TV mean that we are yet another day closer to an Iranian nuclear device, something that Barack Obama promised America he would never let happen.

Thirty-eight days past Washington’s January 1 deadline for Iran to respond to frequent calls for negotiations on its nuclear-weapons program, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad once again thumbed his nose at Barack Obama. Speaking on live TV, the Iranian president told the country’s atomic energy chief, Ali Akbar Salehi, to “please start 20 percent enrichment” of uranium into nuclear fuel. While both Ahmadinejad and Salehi spoke of the move as part of previously failed negotiations in which the West would accept the continuance of the Iranian program as long as it agreed to exchange its own nuclear material for enriched uranium from another country, the point of the announcement was to force the West to back away from sanctions on Iran. But given the ignominious failure of previous attempts to work out such a deal and, as even Secretary of Defense Robert Gates pointed out this weekend, Iran’s clear unwillingness to abide by any such rules, there is no point to talks along these lines.

But Iran’s announcement has a double meaning. While clearly provocative, a New York Times report speculates that it also intended to serve as cover for China and Russia to continue to support further negotiations about fuel exchange so as to avoid United Nations sanctions. The Obama administration wasted much of the past year trying to prove that the president’s belief in “engagement” with rogue regimes was smarter than attempts to confront or isolate them. All that has accomplished is to give the Iranians another year to plan, build, and scheme while undermining the notion that there is anything like an international consensus that will stop them.

There are those who argue that the Iranians are still bluffing with their talk of 20 percent enrichment. We don’t know whether that’s true, but given the way the regime has managed to brutally crush internal dissent, as well as foil Obama’s attempt to get China and Russia to join a sanctions coalition, Ahmadinejad has good reason to be feeling confident these days. At this point, the best the world can hope for is that after several more months of failed diplomacy, perhaps America, Britain, France, and Germany will announce some sort of less-than-crippling-sanctions plan that everyone knows Iran will be able to easily evade. Such a plan will, no doubt, be trumpeted by the administration as a triumph of Obama’s leadership. But the fact remains that his dithering has strengthened Iran’s belief that no one can stop it. All of which means that announcements such as Ahmadinejad’s talk on Iran TV mean that we are yet another day closer to an Iranian nuclear device, something that Barack Obama promised America he would never let happen.

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How’s That Diplomacy Working, Mr. President?

Today wasn’t a good day for the Obama administration’s plan to isolate Iran by appeasing that rogue regime’s two main protectors: Russia and China.

China once again demonstrated that it was not even entertaining the notion of supporting sanctions against Iran when its Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said he opposed any talk of pressure on Tehran since it would block chances of a diplomatic settlement of the impasse over Iran’s development of nuclear weapons. The Iranians have made it clear over and over again that there is no possibility of such a settlement. Which means that the Chinese are merely backing Iran’s strategy of stalling Western diplomats until their nuclear capability is a fait accompli.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported that Iran has received more assurances from Russia that it still intends to deliver long-range air-defense missiles to Tehran. Both the United States and Israel — the likely first target of any Iranian nuclear device — have expended considerable energy on trying to stop the Russians from augmenting Iran’s air-defense system. This is a particularly irresponsible move on Russia’s part. The more secure Iran feels about its ability to defend itself against potential U.S. or Israeli attacks aimed at either forestalling or destroying its nuclear project, the more dangerous it becomes.

Taken together, these two developments illustrate the fact that Obama has wasted a full year pursuing a diplomatic-engagement scheme that never had a chance of success. The idea that you could win Moscow’s heart by betraying the Czech Republic and Poland (over missile defense) or woo China by demonstrating weakness on human rights and trade issues only convinced those countries that Obama’s main characteristic as a leader was neither charisma nor eloquence but rather weakness. The notion that Obama, whose stock is falling not only in the United States but also abroad, can rally either the United Nations (where China and Russia can veto sanctions) or Europe to take serious action on Iran is a White House fantasy.

There is a cottage industry of apologists both for Iran and for the Obama administration’s engagement policy with Tehran, whose main line of argument is that Iranian nukes are no big deal and that both the West and Israel will have to learn to live with them. That fits in nicely with a White House mindset that prefers to obsess over the administration’s faltering domestic agenda rather than deal with a perilous threat to international peace. But the longer Obama waits before attempting to do something about Iran, the more serious the consequences will be. The clock is ticking toward the day when a triumphant Iran will be able to announce that its nuclear dreams have become a reality. As much as this administration’s fate seems to be riding on the economy and failed projects like its hopes for a government takeover of health care, Iran, the issue they prefer would go away, may turn out to be the greatest danger to Obama’s legacy.

Today wasn’t a good day for the Obama administration’s plan to isolate Iran by appeasing that rogue regime’s two main protectors: Russia and China.

China once again demonstrated that it was not even entertaining the notion of supporting sanctions against Iran when its Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said he opposed any talk of pressure on Tehran since it would block chances of a diplomatic settlement of the impasse over Iran’s development of nuclear weapons. The Iranians have made it clear over and over again that there is no possibility of such a settlement. Which means that the Chinese are merely backing Iran’s strategy of stalling Western diplomats until their nuclear capability is a fait accompli.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported that Iran has received more assurances from Russia that it still intends to deliver long-range air-defense missiles to Tehran. Both the United States and Israel — the likely first target of any Iranian nuclear device — have expended considerable energy on trying to stop the Russians from augmenting Iran’s air-defense system. This is a particularly irresponsible move on Russia’s part. The more secure Iran feels about its ability to defend itself against potential U.S. or Israeli attacks aimed at either forestalling or destroying its nuclear project, the more dangerous it becomes.

Taken together, these two developments illustrate the fact that Obama has wasted a full year pursuing a diplomatic-engagement scheme that never had a chance of success. The idea that you could win Moscow’s heart by betraying the Czech Republic and Poland (over missile defense) or woo China by demonstrating weakness on human rights and trade issues only convinced those countries that Obama’s main characteristic as a leader was neither charisma nor eloquence but rather weakness. The notion that Obama, whose stock is falling not only in the United States but also abroad, can rally either the United Nations (where China and Russia can veto sanctions) or Europe to take serious action on Iran is a White House fantasy.

There is a cottage industry of apologists both for Iran and for the Obama administration’s engagement policy with Tehran, whose main line of argument is that Iranian nukes are no big deal and that both the West and Israel will have to learn to live with them. That fits in nicely with a White House mindset that prefers to obsess over the administration’s faltering domestic agenda rather than deal with a perilous threat to international peace. But the longer Obama waits before attempting to do something about Iran, the more serious the consequences will be. The clock is ticking toward the day when a triumphant Iran will be able to announce that its nuclear dreams have become a reality. As much as this administration’s fate seems to be riding on the economy and failed projects like its hopes for a government takeover of health care, Iran, the issue they prefer would go away, may turn out to be the greatest danger to Obama’s legacy.

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IAEA Inspectors: We’re Shocked, Shocked at Iranian Duplicity

The findings of a report released today from the International Atomic Energy Agency’s inspectors about their survey of a previously secret underground nuclear-enrichment plant have apparently led the group to suspect that Iran may be concealing other nuclear factories. Surprise. Surprise. The unfinished facility near the holy city of Qom was built to accommodate enough centrifuges to produce a couple of nuclear weapons a year, but is, in fact, too small to be useful for civilian uses of nuclear power. That gives the lie to Iran’s protests that its nuclear program is for only peaceful intents, but it’s not as if anyone, either in Iran or elsewhere, actually believed that to begin with. But the point of the report is that this newly discovered plant only makes sense if it were part of a network of covert nuclear facilities that could feed it with “raw nuclear fuel.”

But anyone who is shocked about any of this hasn’t been paying attention to this issue for years. Only two years after the United States issued a ridiculous National Intelligence Estimate denying the reality of the Iranian program, even international bodies like the IAEA are no longer prepared to hedge their bets about Iranian intentions. The reality of the imminence of a nuclear Iran cannot be denied any longer, even by those who would prefer to ignore the peril this development poses to U.S. strategic interests as well as world peace. Experts differ as to the exact time line, but there’s little doubt that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may be in a position to announce that an Iranian nuclear device will be ready sometime within the next few years at the latest.

This also brings into perspective President Obama’s diplomacy on Iran. Having both campaigned on negotiations with Tehran without preconditions and downplayed the human-rights disaster in that country in the wake of a stolen presidential election, Obama seemed to believe he could make a deal with the ayatollahs. But the Iranians rightly sensed weakness and have exploited Obama’s desire for talks at any price. They negotiated a pact to transport their enriched uranium to Russia for safekeeping and then renounced it within weeks without an explanation and have refused Obama’s desperate pleas for them to consider an even sweeter deal. With egg left on his face, Obama has been forced to go cap in hand to Russia and now China to beg them for support for sanctions on the recalcitrant Iranians. The Russians played along, to a certain extent, by expressing their unhappiness with Iran. But you have to forget everything we’ve learned about Vladimir Putin and his foreign-policy priorities in order to believe that the Russians will repudiate their Iranian trading partners to accommodate a prime U.S. strategic interest. Optimism about Chinese help is equally fantastic.

Obama’s amateur diplomacy of apologies and bows can take the U.S. just so far when it comes to manufacturing an international coalition behind the sorts of sanctions that could bring Iran to its knees. Having gambled on a losing diplomatic hand with Iran, the president is now scrambling to resurrect a policy that is clearly sinking under the weight of his naïveté. The latest UN report illustrates just how fast the clock is ticking toward a confrontation that the president seems ill equipped to handle.

The findings of a report released today from the International Atomic Energy Agency’s inspectors about their survey of a previously secret underground nuclear-enrichment plant have apparently led the group to suspect that Iran may be concealing other nuclear factories. Surprise. Surprise. The unfinished facility near the holy city of Qom was built to accommodate enough centrifuges to produce a couple of nuclear weapons a year, but is, in fact, too small to be useful for civilian uses of nuclear power. That gives the lie to Iran’s protests that its nuclear program is for only peaceful intents, but it’s not as if anyone, either in Iran or elsewhere, actually believed that to begin with. But the point of the report is that this newly discovered plant only makes sense if it were part of a network of covert nuclear facilities that could feed it with “raw nuclear fuel.”

But anyone who is shocked about any of this hasn’t been paying attention to this issue for years. Only two years after the United States issued a ridiculous National Intelligence Estimate denying the reality of the Iranian program, even international bodies like the IAEA are no longer prepared to hedge their bets about Iranian intentions. The reality of the imminence of a nuclear Iran cannot be denied any longer, even by those who would prefer to ignore the peril this development poses to U.S. strategic interests as well as world peace. Experts differ as to the exact time line, but there’s little doubt that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may be in a position to announce that an Iranian nuclear device will be ready sometime within the next few years at the latest.

This also brings into perspective President Obama’s diplomacy on Iran. Having both campaigned on negotiations with Tehran without preconditions and downplayed the human-rights disaster in that country in the wake of a stolen presidential election, Obama seemed to believe he could make a deal with the ayatollahs. But the Iranians rightly sensed weakness and have exploited Obama’s desire for talks at any price. They negotiated a pact to transport their enriched uranium to Russia for safekeeping and then renounced it within weeks without an explanation and have refused Obama’s desperate pleas for them to consider an even sweeter deal. With egg left on his face, Obama has been forced to go cap in hand to Russia and now China to beg them for support for sanctions on the recalcitrant Iranians. The Russians played along, to a certain extent, by expressing their unhappiness with Iran. But you have to forget everything we’ve learned about Vladimir Putin and his foreign-policy priorities in order to believe that the Russians will repudiate their Iranian trading partners to accommodate a prime U.S. strategic interest. Optimism about Chinese help is equally fantastic.

Obama’s amateur diplomacy of apologies and bows can take the U.S. just so far when it comes to manufacturing an international coalition behind the sorts of sanctions that could bring Iran to its knees. Having gambled on a losing diplomatic hand with Iran, the president is now scrambling to resurrect a policy that is clearly sinking under the weight of his naïveté. The latest UN report illustrates just how fast the clock is ticking toward a confrontation that the president seems ill equipped to handle.

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Why Incentives?

While the international community is busy hammering out a new and more attractive package of incentives for Iran, the Times of London reports on the exposure of an clandestine Iranian missile facility:

Analysis of the photographs taken by the Digital Globe QuickBird satellite four days after the launch has revealed a number of intriguing features that indicate to experts that it is the same site where Iran is focusing its efforts on developing a ballistic missile with a range of about 6,000km (4,000 miles).

This is the latest in a series of revelations about Iran’s military programs which Iran is trying to conceal from the world. In particular, as emerged from the latest IAEA report circulated last February, Iran has detailed designs of uranium metal hemispheres, re-entry vehicles and other components which would likely be needed to build a nuclear warhead and secure it on a missile like the ones Iran is developing at the site now exposed. Among other things, the IAEA report described

parameters and development work related to the Shahab 3 missile, in particular technical aspects of a re-entry vehicle, and made available to Iran for examination a computer image provided by other Member States showing a schematic layout of the contents of the inner cone of a re-entry vehicle. This layout has been assessed by the Agency as quite likely to be able to accommodate a nuclear device.

Now, consider the Iranian case to date: Iran has just announced the installation of 6,000 new centrifuges – apparently of a more advanced design than the P-1 and P-2 centrifuges already operating at the Natanz nuclear site; Iran is alleged to have ballistic missiles that can accommodate a nuclear warhead; Iran is now developing ballistic missiles with a 4,000 mile range that could easily reach any European capital; Iran admits having a design for uranium hemispheres; Iran was already offered a long list of incentives in June 2006 and took two months to carefully phrase its response – “NO!”. So, why are the nations of the world trying to increase the incentive package for Iran exactly?

Technical hurdles are the only things that stand between Iran and the bomb. If an Iranian bomb is so terrifying a prospect – as both US president George W. Bush and French President, Nicholar Sarkozy have repeatedly acknowledged – is it not time for a bit more pressure to be brought to bear, rather than more incentives?

While the international community is busy hammering out a new and more attractive package of incentives for Iran, the Times of London reports on the exposure of an clandestine Iranian missile facility:

Analysis of the photographs taken by the Digital Globe QuickBird satellite four days after the launch has revealed a number of intriguing features that indicate to experts that it is the same site where Iran is focusing its efforts on developing a ballistic missile with a range of about 6,000km (4,000 miles).

This is the latest in a series of revelations about Iran’s military programs which Iran is trying to conceal from the world. In particular, as emerged from the latest IAEA report circulated last February, Iran has detailed designs of uranium metal hemispheres, re-entry vehicles and other components which would likely be needed to build a nuclear warhead and secure it on a missile like the ones Iran is developing at the site now exposed. Among other things, the IAEA report described

parameters and development work related to the Shahab 3 missile, in particular technical aspects of a re-entry vehicle, and made available to Iran for examination a computer image provided by other Member States showing a schematic layout of the contents of the inner cone of a re-entry vehicle. This layout has been assessed by the Agency as quite likely to be able to accommodate a nuclear device.

Now, consider the Iranian case to date: Iran has just announced the installation of 6,000 new centrifuges – apparently of a more advanced design than the P-1 and P-2 centrifuges already operating at the Natanz nuclear site; Iran is alleged to have ballistic missiles that can accommodate a nuclear warhead; Iran is now developing ballistic missiles with a 4,000 mile range that could easily reach any European capital; Iran admits having a design for uranium hemispheres; Iran was already offered a long list of incentives in June 2006 and took two months to carefully phrase its response – “NO!”. So, why are the nations of the world trying to increase the incentive package for Iran exactly?

Technical hurdles are the only things that stand between Iran and the bomb. If an Iranian bomb is so terrifying a prospect – as both US president George W. Bush and French President, Nicholar Sarkozy have repeatedly acknowledged – is it not time for a bit more pressure to be brought to bear, rather than more incentives?

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Nuke Teheran?

Charles Krauthammer lays out the case today for a U.S. nuclear guarantee to Israel. “It’s time to admit the truth,” he writes. “The Bush administration’s attempt to halt Iran’s nuclear program has failed.” He proposes instead that George Bush should take a leaf from the Cuban missile crisis and issue a ringing declaration that:

“It shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear attack upon Israel by Iran, or originating in Iran, as an attack by Iran on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon Iran.”

This should be followed with a simple explanation: “As a beacon of tolerance and as leader of the free world, the United States will not permit a second Holocaust to be perpetrated upon the Jewish people.”

Such an approach has its undeniable appeal, but would it suffice to assure Israel’s security needs, or even survival, in the face of a nuclear-armed Iran?

In some scenarios, perhaps. It certainly might give the Iranians pause before launching a nuclear-missile fusillade against Tel Aviv directly from their soil. But there are many far more ambiguous forms in which an Iranian nuclear weapon might be employed, and not only against Israel, but against other countries in the region. The provision of a nuclear weapon to a terrorist surrogate group under Iranian control is one. Coercive nuclear threats are another.

Would the United States really follow through on its word and destroy Tehran if, say, Hizballah smuggled a nuclear device into Haifa and detonated it? Somehow, I doubt it. And we are not even contemplating here the possibility that it might be Barack Obama who has to answer the phone at 3AM before calling General McPeak and asking him what to do.   

The fact is that a nuclear-armed Iran will be a far more assertive and dangerous power than it already is. No words from an American president, no matter how ringing, can solve Israel’s defense dilemma at a stroke. Unless the U.S. or Israel takes action, we may yet have to learn to live with an Iranian bomb. But it’s folly to believe we can solve major security problems with declarations.

Charles Krauthammer lays out the case today for a U.S. nuclear guarantee to Israel. “It’s time to admit the truth,” he writes. “The Bush administration’s attempt to halt Iran’s nuclear program has failed.” He proposes instead that George Bush should take a leaf from the Cuban missile crisis and issue a ringing declaration that:

“It shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear attack upon Israel by Iran, or originating in Iran, as an attack by Iran on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon Iran.”

This should be followed with a simple explanation: “As a beacon of tolerance and as leader of the free world, the United States will not permit a second Holocaust to be perpetrated upon the Jewish people.”

Such an approach has its undeniable appeal, but would it suffice to assure Israel’s security needs, or even survival, in the face of a nuclear-armed Iran?

In some scenarios, perhaps. It certainly might give the Iranians pause before launching a nuclear-missile fusillade against Tel Aviv directly from their soil. But there are many far more ambiguous forms in which an Iranian nuclear weapon might be employed, and not only against Israel, but against other countries in the region. The provision of a nuclear weapon to a terrorist surrogate group under Iranian control is one. Coercive nuclear threats are another.

Would the United States really follow through on its word and destroy Tehran if, say, Hizballah smuggled a nuclear device into Haifa and detonated it? Somehow, I doubt it. And we are not even contemplating here the possibility that it might be Barack Obama who has to answer the phone at 3AM before calling General McPeak and asking him what to do.   

The fact is that a nuclear-armed Iran will be a far more assertive and dangerous power than it already is. No words from an American president, no matter how ringing, can solve Israel’s defense dilemma at a stroke. Unless the U.S. or Israel takes action, we may yet have to learn to live with an Iranian bomb. But it’s folly to believe we can solve major security problems with declarations.

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Andrew Sullivan’s Tortured Logic

In an article I wrote for today’s Daily Standard, I took note of the problem posed by so called “ticking time bombs” for absolutist critics of the use of torture in the war against terrorism.

It seems that even those most vociferously opposed to the use of torture seem to permit an exception in cases in which a terrorist incident might be imminent, for example, if the authorities know that a terrorist hid a nuclear weapon somewhere in New York City and they had 24 hours to beat it out of him.

Andrew Sullivan, one of the shrillest critics of harsh methods of interrogation in the war on terrorism, has a solution to the ethical quandary here.  As I wrote in the Standard, he would permit torture in such a case, but only if we “know–not just suspect–but know that a detainee knows where [the nuclear device] is” (Sullivan’s emphasis). But Sullivan calls this a “one in ten million, never-happened-in-human-history, infinitesimal chance” scenario. What is more, he still believes that the officials who engage in and/or authorize torture in such an incident should be convicted of war crimes (although he allows that if their decision “were retroactively seen as the correct judgment, their sentence might be commuted”). In other words, if he is making an exception, it is narrow to the vanishing point.

A reader by the name of SDB has written me with a brilliant dissection of Sullivan’s position and the moral cowardice entailed in it:

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In an article I wrote for today’s Daily Standard, I took note of the problem posed by so called “ticking time bombs” for absolutist critics of the use of torture in the war against terrorism.

It seems that even those most vociferously opposed to the use of torture seem to permit an exception in cases in which a terrorist incident might be imminent, for example, if the authorities know that a terrorist hid a nuclear weapon somewhere in New York City and they had 24 hours to beat it out of him.

Andrew Sullivan, one of the shrillest critics of harsh methods of interrogation in the war on terrorism, has a solution to the ethical quandary here.  As I wrote in the Standard, he would permit torture in such a case, but only if we “know–not just suspect–but know that a detainee knows where [the nuclear device] is” (Sullivan’s emphasis). But Sullivan calls this a “one in ten million, never-happened-in-human-history, infinitesimal chance” scenario. What is more, he still believes that the officials who engage in and/or authorize torture in such an incident should be convicted of war crimes (although he allows that if their decision “were retroactively seen as the correct judgment, their sentence might be commuted”). In other words, if he is making an exception, it is narrow to the vanishing point.

A reader by the name of SDB has written me with a brilliant dissection of Sullivan’s position and the moral cowardice entailed in it:

Sullivan’s approach seems to want to make the best of both worlds in dealing with interrogation policy. But his approach is not so much an objection to use of harsh interrogation techniques as an ethically surreptitious ticket to use them in rare cases.

This solution is morally suspect, on Kantian grounds, in that it tacitly endorses using people of good will merely as tools for the production of both international amity, and national security. It not only uses them, but intentionally dehumanizes them in order to make that use palatable. The very act of putting them on trial makes them exiles from the moral community, a special class of scapegoat.

Sullivan’s approach says to the employees of the intelligence community, on the one hand, that we expect them to use these techniques when they deem it necessary (make sure there really is a ticking time bomb on their hands using guidelines that we will not codify for fear of giving the impression that we legally and morally approve use of these techniques). On the other hand, it also says that we expect them to be willing to sacrifice or risk their good names and freedom in so doing, or at the very least, that we expect them to endure a sort of scapegoating for doing so, not only by their own country, through its legal system, but by the international community.

This approach, quite frankly, would be inexcusable moral cowardice. We should have the moral courage either to legally allow interrogations of the kind we have been discussing, or absolutely and in no uncertain terms divest ourselves from them. There should be no ‘nudge-nudge-wink-wink’ encouragement of torture while we also at the same time and with much fanfare declare to the world that we are morally set against such practices. This does smack of disingenuous grandstanding.

Neither should we fall prey to the easy and comforting fiction that these sorts of scenarios and this sort of compromise (if we can call it such) just allows us to act in those rare circumstances in which we must make use of bad people for good ends. To assume that only “bad” people will use the coercive methods in ticking-time-bomb scenarios, and that we are thereby excused in letting them hang out to dry as we put them on trial, and then that by convicting and pardoning them we can acknowledge and make use of their supposed moral depravity while at the same time exhibiting our moral enlightenment and rectitude to the world, is, to say the least, an ethicist’s attempt at squaring a circle, and evidence of a baroque moral preciousness that is worthy of condemnation.

Such a practice is in essence a pathetic case of: encouraging “others do the dirty work,” blaming them for doing so, condemning their character for doing so, making vain attempts at absolving ourselves from responsibility, and reaping the benefits of their acts. It allows “us” to emerge morally unscathed, while the scapegoats take on our sin of cowardice in the guise of a legal prosecution.

Too precious. Too precious. If we are going to admit that there are times that require use of water boarding and other techniques, we should be grown up about it, codify use, create a responsible professional cadre for the purpose and dispense with moral duplicity and prevarication.

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How To Counter the Taiwan Nuclear Menace

One of the problems commonly cited about gun control is that it keeps firearms out of the hands of law-abiding citizens, leaving the field to criminals, who by definition do not care about following the rules.

Does a similar dynamic exist in the nuclear realm? That certainly seems to be the case in Asia, where the U.S. has worked hard to halt the spread of these fearsome weapons.

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One of the problems commonly cited about gun control is that it keeps firearms out of the hands of law-abiding citizens, leaving the field to criminals, who by definition do not care about following the rules.

Does a similar dynamic exist in the nuclear realm? That certainly seems to be the case in Asia, where the U.S. has worked hard to halt the spread of these fearsome weapons.

North Korea tested its first bomb last October. It may have been a partial dud; the evidence is unclear. Whatever the case, the U.S. has repeatedly stated that a nuclear-armed North Korea would be intolerable. But tolerating it we are. Pyongyang is thought to have a small arsenal of nuclear weapons and may be building more.

Communist China, not nearly as hostile as North Korea, but a potential adversary nonetheless, has a much larger arsenal. Some of its smaller devices appear to be copies of ours, the warhead designs probably obtained by espionage. At this point, we are doing nothing about Chinese nuclear weapons; we have no choice but to acquiese. But back in the early 1960’s when was China was in the throes of revolutionary chaos, the problem was worrisome enough for both the Kennedy and Johnson administrations to contemplate a preemptive first strike to take out the fledgling Chinese nuclear program.

Pakistan is not now an adversary, but given its political instability, it is a lit fuse on a stick of dynamite. This basketcase of a country already has an arsenal of perhaps 100 weapons. If a nuclear device is detonated in anger in the next decade, or passed on to a terrorist band, my bet is that it will be one of these.

Then there is our friend Taiwan, a threat to no one, a stable and law-abiding country, threatened by its giant Communist neighbor, which has been engaged in an intense military build-up across the Taiwan straits. In the 1970’s, feeling increasingly isolated and vulnerable in light of Richard Nixon’s opening to Communist China followed by Jimmy Carter’s abrupt severing of diplomatic relations, the Taiwanese government launched a covert nuclear-weapons development program.

Fascinating newly declassified documents, some of them top-secret and just put on-line by the National Security Archive, a private research group, show that the U.S., particularly under Carter, came down hard, leading Taiwan’s premier to complain that Washington was treating Taiwan “in a fashion which few other countries would tolerate.”

Whether the U.S. pushed too hard can be debated, but the pressure did achieve the desired result. Taiwan today does not have nuclear weapons.

Should we applaud? If so, only with one hand. Most of the criminals in this particular neighborhood now have the guns while one of its upstanding citizens was successfully disarmed.

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Learning To Love the Islamic Bomb

As I noted in my previous post, George Tenet: CIA or CYA?, much of what is contained in the former CIA director’s new memoir is a self-serving attempt to dodge responsibility for the monumental intelligence failures that occurred on his watch. But as a matter of formal logic, just because In the Center of the Storm contains false statements—see Andrew McCarthy’s analysis at NRO for chapter, verse, hook, line, and sinker—not every statement uttered by its author is always untrue.

Appearing on CBS’s Sixty Minutes to flog his book, Tenet noted that Osama bin Laden has been seeking nuclear weapons since 1993, and proceeded to raise the alarm: “Is it going to happen? Look, I don’t know, but I worry about it because I’ve seen enough to tell me there is intent and when there is intent the question is when does the capability show up?”

In the aftermath of September 11, whether Tenet’s worries are based upon slam-dunk intelligence is irrelevant. Even more so than was the case with Iraq, this is not a matter on which we can gamble. But how would Osama bin Laden go about obtaining a nuclear bomb?

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As I noted in my previous post, George Tenet: CIA or CYA?, much of what is contained in the former CIA director’s new memoir is a self-serving attempt to dodge responsibility for the monumental intelligence failures that occurred on his watch. But as a matter of formal logic, just because In the Center of the Storm contains false statements—see Andrew McCarthy’s analysis at NRO for chapter, verse, hook, line, and sinker—not every statement uttered by its author is always untrue.

Appearing on CBS’s Sixty Minutes to flog his book, Tenet noted that Osama bin Laden has been seeking nuclear weapons since 1993, and proceeded to raise the alarm: “Is it going to happen? Look, I don’t know, but I worry about it because I’ve seen enough to tell me there is intent and when there is intent the question is when does the capability show up?”

In the aftermath of September 11, whether Tenet’s worries are based upon slam-dunk intelligence is irrelevant. Even more so than was the case with Iraq, this is not a matter on which we can gamble. But how would Osama bin Laden go about obtaining a nuclear bomb?

Building one from scratch is out of the question; major states spend years and billions of dollars acquiring the expertise and the materials, especially the fissionable elements for its explosive core. Conducting such an enterprise on a shoestring budget while on the run from cave to cave is not a likely prospect.

Far more worrisome is that al Qaeda will seek out a bomb from Pakistan, which now has perhaps as many as 25 to 100 such devices in its arsenal. There would be two ways to lay one’s hands on such a heavily guarded apparatus.

The first would be to foment a revolution in unstable Pakistan that brings Islamists into power. Toward that end, Al Qaeda and its affiliates have been waging a campaign of terror inside Pakistan designed to topple the government of General Pervez Musharraf. In the most recent attack this past Saturday, a suicide bomber killed 28 people in a failed attempt on the life of Pakistan’s interior minister.

A second approach would be to find a sympathizer inside Pakistan’s military or nuclear establishment. Given recent history, this might well be the easier route. After all, the head of Pakistan’s nuclear-bomb-making project, Abdul Q. Khan, now under house arrest in Islamabad, found it convenient and profitable to trade nuclear secrets and materials to a host of aggressive anti-American, terror-supporting states, including Iran, Libya, and North Korea.

How many others are there like Khan inside the Pakistani establishment, and can they be stopped? That is a question that every presidential candidate should be compelled to ponder, especially because a swelling chorus of voices in the liberal-Left foreign-policy establishment is now all of a sudden telling us that nuclear proliferation is not the fearful thing we have long believed.

The latest entry is a new book called the The Atomic Bazaar: The Rise of the Nuclear Poor, by William Langewiesche, a correspondent for Vanity Fair, whose considered opinion is that the “spread of nuclear weapons, even to such countries as North Korea and Iran, may not be as catastrophic as is generally believed,” and certainly not bad enough to justify “the pursuit of preemptive wars” of the kind we are now fighting in Iraq and contemplating against Iran.

On the contrary, suggests Langewiesche, we should recognize that we live in a “new reality in which limited nuclear wars are possible, and the use of a few devices, though locally devastating, will not necessarily blossom into a global exchange.” Overall, he concludes, since the end of the cold war, “the risk of an apocalypse may have been reduced.”

Perhaps Langewiesche is right. Or perhaps he is wrong. On the basis of his experience writing for Vanity Fair, should we just take his word for it? I prefer to side with the tainted Tenet in the view that we should do our utmost to stop such a thing from happening. And I find it fascinating, and profoundly disquieting, that a growing chorus of voices is telling us that we should not worry about something so worrisome, a case of defining deviancy down if there ever was one. 

A nuclear device supplied by a rogue element in Pakistan and detonated by al Qaeda at Four Times Square, where the offices of Vanity Fair are located, would almost certainly destroy the offices of COMMENTARY as well, even though we are located a few blocks north and across town. A global apocalypse during the cold war would no doubt have been awful. “Locally devastating” in the post-cold war would be bad enough.
 

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