Tag Archives: Nuclear Weapons

The US Is Stockpiling Nuclear Arms, and the Cost Is Astonishing, by Harry Blain

Nuclear poker is a very expensive game. From Harry Blain at antiwar.com:

We’re spending $1.2 trillion on weapons that invariably make the world a more dangerous place

Overwhelmed with stories of high-level indictments, intrigues, investigations, and scandals, the American public can be forgiven for missing revelations about an issue of some importance: our nuclear weapons.

Thanks to an October 31 report by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), we now have a 30-year outline of both the kinds of destructive weaponry we are buying, and how much it is going to cost. There are good reasons to be worried.

“A pot of gold at the end of the rainbow”

How much exactly? $1.2 trillion in all. Even spread over three decades, that’s a big investment.

Per year, it could pay for over half of Russia’s military budget, five Environmental Protection Agencies, or at least three “beautiful” walls on the U.S.-Mexico border.

It’s an especially big investment for something you hope to never use. Nuclear weapons aren’t cheap: According to the Congressional Budget Office, the cost of maintaining just the existing U.S. nuclear forces will be close to $800 billion; the shiny new stuff will be another $400 billion. “Many of today’s nuclear weapons systems were designed and built decades ago,” the CBO notes, “and are nearing the end of their service life.”

In a narrow sense, this seems sensible enough: Aging nuclear weapons infrastructure can lead to things like command and control systems running on floppy disks and a higher risk of security breaches. If you are going to insist on possessing the world’s most lethal weapon, you should look after it.

Nonetheless, as Kingston Reif of the Arms Control Association put it, the “stark reality underlined by CBO is that unless the US government finds a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, the nuclear weapons spending plan inherited by the Trump administration will pose a crushing affordability problem.”

“Uniquely destabilizing”

The New York Times headline on the matter – “Trump Plans for Nuclear Arsenal Require $1.2 Trillion, Congressional Review States” – is either an innocent mistake or a misleading rhetorical sleight of hand. It implies, falsely, that this costly program belongs to the 45th president, even though the first paragraph of the CBO report explicitly states that it refers to “the Obama Administration’s 2017 budget request.”

This is not a trivial point.

Even if, like many Americans, you trust Barack Obama’s judgment more than Donald Trump’s, you need to ask the deeper questions: Do I want anypresident to preside over such a vast nuclear arsenal? Could even the most sober and intelligent commander-in-chief make one catastrophic error in judgment? Are there certain weapons that are inherently more dangerous than others, regardless of who has the authority to push the button?

To continue reading: The US Is Stockpiling Nuclear Arms, and the Cost Is Astonishing

Advertisements

Massive Overkill Brought to You By the Nuclear-Industrial Complex, by William D. Hartung

Here’s a great quote, from Derek Johnson, director of the antinuclear organization Global Zero, on the proposed $1.7 trillion nuclear weapons upgrade program: “That’s money we don’t have for an arsenal we don’t need.”

[This piece has been updated and adapted from William D. Hartung’s “Nuclear Politics” in Sleepwalking to Armageddon: The Threat of Nuclear Annihilation, edited by Helen Caldicott and just published by the New Press.]

Until recently, few of us woke up worrying about the threat of nuclear war. Such dangers seemed like Cold War relics, associated with outmoded practices like building fallout shelters and “duck and cover” drills.

But give Donald Trump credit.  When it comes to nukes, he’s gotten our attention. He’s prompted renewed concern, if not outright alarm, about the possibility that such weaponry could actually be used for the first time since the 6th and 9th of August 1945. That’s what happens when the man in the Oval Office begins threatening to rain “fire and fury like the world has never seen” on another country or, as he did in his presidential campaign, claimingcryptically that, when it comes to nuclear weapons, “the devastation is very important to me.”

Trump’s pronouncements are at least as unnerving as President Ronald Reagan’s infamous “joke” that “we begin bombing [the Soviet Union] in five minutes” or the comment of a Reagan aide that, “with enough shovels,” the United States could survive a superpower nuclear exchange.

Whether in the 1980s or today, a tough-guy attitude on nuclear weapons, when combined with an apparent ignorance about their world-ending potential, adds up to a toxic brew.  An unprecedented global anti-nuclear movement — spearheaded by the European Nuclear Disarmament campaign and, in the United States, the Nuclear Freeze campaign — helped turn President Reagan around, so much so that he later agreed to substantial nuclear cuts and acknowledged that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”

It remains to be seen whether anything could similarly influence Donald Trump. One thing is certain, however: the president has plenty of nuclear weapons to back up his aggressive rhetoric — more than 4,000 of them in the active U.S. stockpile, when a mere handful of them could obliterate North Korea at the cost of millions of lives.  Indeed, a few hundred nuclear warheads could do the same for even the largest of nations and those 4,000, if ever used, could essentially destroy the planet.

To continue reading: Massive Overkill Brought to You By the Nuclear-Industrial Complex

Madmen, North Korea, and War, by Peter Van Buren

Neither Kim Jong Un nor President Trump are crazy, and there probably won’t be a war on the Korean peninsula. From Peter Van Buren at antiwar.com:

The seemingly accepted wisdom that American President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un are paired madmen on the edge of war has little to support it other than projected fears. There will be no war because war on the Korean peninsula benefits no one and is very bad for everyone (we’ll get to the madmen theory in a moment.)

North Korea’s weapons, nuclear and conventional, are arguably the most defensive ever fielded. The North has no realistic claims on overseas territory or resources to resolve, and its borders are stable. Its weapons have not been used offensively more or less since 1953. They exist within the most perfect example of mutually assured destruction history has seen.

Mutually assured destruction, MAD, is what kept the Cold War cool, the understanding that if either the United States or Russia unleashed nuclear weapons, both sides would be destroyed. The same applies today on the Korean Peninsula, where any conflict means the end of the North and the end of the Kim dynasty. “Conflict” in this sense also includes an invasion of South Korea by the North. The United States and its allies will win any fight. Kim and everyone with any power, influence or stake in the North knows that. The nation of North Korea exists to exist, living proof of its own juche philosophy of self-reliance. North Korea has no reason to start a war that will end in its own destruction. Its nuclear weapons are only useful if they are never used.

Any talk of an American conventional “surgical strike” ignores the reality that no amount of planning can ensure every weapon of mass destruction will be destroyed; if that was possible the United States would have done it. Any attack on North Korea will result in a nuclear response — there is nothing “limited” for a cornered animal fighting for its life. While it is unclear a North Korean missile could reach American territory, no one in Washington has ever been willing to bet the house that a submarine with a nuke, or North Korean special forces with a dirty bomb, couldn’t do significant damage to an American city. Or to Seoul and Tokyo, both also well within range of North Korean nuclear and conventional missiles.

To continue reading: Madmen, North Korea, and War

Three Dangerous Delusions about Korea, by James George Jatras

Given North Korea’s nuclear weapons, any delusions about that country are almost by definition dangerous. From James George Jatras at strategic-culture.org:

They say that most of the world’s real dangers arise not because of what people don’t know but because of what they do «know» that just ain’t so.

As a case in point, consider three things about Korea that the bipartisan Washington establishment seems quite sure of but are far removed from reality:

Delusion 1: All options, including U.S. military force, are «on the table.»

– Everyone knows there are no military «options» the U.S. could use against North Korea that don’t result in disaster. The prospect that a «surgical strike» could «take out» (a muscular-sounding term much loved by laptop bombardiers) Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile capabilities is a fiction. Already impractical when considered against a country like Iran, no one believes a limited attack could eliminate North Korea’s ability to strike back, hard. At risk would be not only almost 30,000 U.S. troops in Korea but 25 million people in the Seoul metropolitan area, not to mention many more lives at risk in the rest of South Korea and perhaps Japan.

Hence, any contemplated U.S. preemptive strike would have to be massive from the start, imposing a ghastly cost on North Koreans (do their lives count?) but still running the risk that anything less than total success would mean a devastating retaliation. That’s not even taking into account possible actions of other countries, notably China’s response to an American attack on their detestable buffer state.

Delusion 2: North Korea must be denuclearized.

– Whether anyone likes it or not, North Korea is a nuclear weapons state outside the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and will remain so. Kim Jong-un learned the lessons of Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi. Because Kim has weapons of mass destruction, especially nukes, he gets to stay alive and in power. If he gives them up, he can look forward to dancing the Tyburn jig or getting sodomized with a bayonet, then shot. That’s not a difficult choice.

To continue reading: Three Dangerous Delusions about Korea

 

North Korea: fire, fury and fear, by Pepe Escobar

The problem with a completely discredited intelligence community is that we have no idea of what we can and cannot believe from them. From Pepe Escobar at atimes.com:

Beware the dogs of war. The same intel “folks” who brought to you babies pulled from incubators by “evil” Iraqis as well as non-existent WMDs are now peddling the notion that North Korea has produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead able to fit its recently tested ICBM.

That’s the core of an analysis completed in July by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). Additionally, US intel believes that Pyongyang now has access to up to 60 nuclear weapons. On the ground US intel on North Korea is virtually non-existent – so these assessments amount to guesswork at best.

But when we couple the guesswork with an annual 500-page white paper released earlier this week by the Japanese Defense Ministry, alarm bells do start ringing.

The white paper stresses Pyongyang’s “significant headway” in the nuclear race and its “possible” (italics mine) ability to develop miniaturized nuclear warheads able to fit on the tips of its missiles.

This “possible” ability is drowned in outright speculation. As the report states, “It is conceivable that North Korea’s nuclear weapons program has already considerably advanced and it is possible that North Korea has already achieved the miniaturization of nuclear bombs into warheads and has acquired nuclear warheads.”

Western corporate media would hardly refrain from metastasizing pure speculation into a “North Korea has miniaturized nuclear weapons” frenzy consuming the cable news cycle/ newspaper headlines. Talk about hearts and minds comfortably numbed by the fear factor.

The Japanese white paper, conveniently, also escalated condemnation of China over Beijing’s actions in both the East and South China seas.

To continue reading: North Korea: fire, fury and fear

Retired Green Beret Warns: “North Korea Can Deliver An EMP Weapon Dead Center Over America”, by Jeremiah Johnson

This is one of the more frightful scenarios concerning North Korea’s nuclear capabilities. From Jeremiah Johnson at shtfplan.com:

Most are aware by now that North Korea has tested (successfully) another ICBM missile, and its nuclear ambitions are more concrete by the day.  The mainstream media and the Obama administration are the creators of the public’s skepticism and denial regarding North Korea’s capabilities.  The Obama administration consistently and deliberately downplayed the true strengths and capabilities of North Korea over an eight-year period.  Such a downplay was further enabled by key press conferences in which members of the U.S. military’s command structure (specifically those serving in the Pentagon) were made to parrot the administration’s denial.

By “pulling Pentagon officials out” and having them categorically deny North Korea’s capabilities, it set the tempo to create a false narrative that Obama and his minions would champion throughout the eight years.  Pentagon officials (Admirals and Four-star Generals) were periodically “rotated” into these press pools to downplay the abilities of North Korea to launch a nuclear missile against the United States.

This obfuscation, orchestrated by Obama and parroted by those general officers who were about to retire in a couple of years was a precise and deliberate weakening of the United States’ defensive stance against a nation that declared its intentions to strike her.

All the experts on the subject were marginalized and labeled either as “crackpots,” or just scoffed at with their opinions relegated to page A-14, just above a coupon for “Captain Crunch” and at the bottom of the page of the newspaper.  The public bought it.  They swallowed the pill offered by the government-media complex, and in their own narcissistic hubris, discounted the efforts of a “backwards” country such as North Korea to send a nuke to the U.S.

Not anymore.

Now the media is grudgingly, painfully admitting what cannot be hidden: North Korea has more than enough capability to hit the United States.  All of it.  The North Korean ICBM test on Friday, July 29 proves they can strike the U.S. anywhere.  Here you go:

“Looks like it pretty much can get to New York, Boston, and probably falls just short of Washington [DC].  If those numbers are correct, the missile flown on a standard trajectory, the missile would have a range of 10,400 km (6,500 miles), not taking into account the Earth’s rotation.  However, the rotation of the Earth increases the range of missiles fired eastward, depending on their direction.  It is important to keep in mind that we do not know the mass of the payload the missile carried on this test.”

David Wright, Senior Scientist, Global Security Program, Union of Concerned Scientists to CNBC

Keep this sentence in mind from the excerpt: “However, the rotation of the Earth increases the range of missiles fired eastward, depending on their direction.”

To continue reading: Retired Green Beret Warns: “North Korea Can Deliver An EMP Weapon Dead Center Over America”

The Latest: US Official Admits North Korean Missiles Aren’t Threat to America, by James Holbrooks

“North Korea does not have the ability to strike the United States with ‘any degree of accuracy’ and while its missiles have the range, they lack the necessary guidance capability, the vice chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff said on Tuesday.”

Not to mention that North Korea would be vaporized if it every fired a nuclear missile at the US. From James Holbrooks at theantimedia.org:

Geopolitical moves are being made on the issue of North Korea. A day after South Korea’s new government offered to hold military talks with its neighbor to the North, the United States’ second-highest ranking military official admitted Tuesday that North Korean missiles lack the accuracy to effectively target U.S. cities.

On Monday, South Korea’s defense ministry proposed that representatives from both the South and North Korean militaries meet at the border village of Panmunjom in North Korea for talks.

“We make the proposal for a meeting…aimed at stopping all hostile activities that escalate military tension along the land border,” South Korea’s defense ministry said in a statement.

The man in charge of North Korean affairs, unification minister Cho Myoung-gyon, said his country “would not seek collapse of the North or unification through absorbing the North” and suggested a positive response from Kim Jong-un’s government would represent a show of good faith.

“North Korea should respond to our sincere proposals if it really seeks peace on the Korean Peninsula,” Cho said, adding that if “North Korea chooses the right path, we would like to open the door for a brighter future for North Korea, together, by cooperating with the international community.