Arms Control Wonk ArmsControlWonk

 

Reagan and Gorbachev at Hofdi House during the Reykjavik Summit in 1986.

Ken Adelman has written an appealing, breezy account of the most extraordinary chapter of US-Soviet nuclear negotiations – the impromptu summit at Reykjavik on October 11-12, 1986 between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev. His new book, Reagan at Reykjavik: Forty-Eight Hours that Ended the Cold War, covers familiar ground, but this story never gets old. Adelman adds value with personal detail and notes taken of Soviet preparations for the summit by Anatoly Chernaev. Several of his broad conclusions, however, including that Reagan accelerated the demise of the Soviet Union by sticking to his guns on the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), are overdrawn and unsupported by evidence.

Read Full Story →

 
 

Aaron and Jeffrey talk with Theresa Hitchens, the Director of UNIDIR, about life in Geneva, space, and emerging technologies. The podcast begins with some useful tips for cheese lovers and Jeffrey’s advice for finding the perfect sausage, before moving on to a discussion about difficulties in defining a “space weapon,” the Russian and Chinese approaches to space issues, cyber threats, and the need for the US to craft a more comprehensive policy to address future proliferation threats.

Sponsor:

Scrivener – a powerful content-generation tool for writers that allows you to concentrate on composing and structuring long and difficult documents.

 
 

A standard hawkish critique of the practice of arms control and the pursuit of nuclear disarmament is that treaties pave the way to perdition. It’s senseless, in this view, to seek to override divergent national interests and political cultures. Arms control and reduction initiatives are not only doomed to fail, but also weaken America’s ability to respond once failure is evident, lulling the nation into weakness, a false sense of security and unpreparedness.

Read Full Story →

 
 

The Iraq Survey Group did a poor job. How did the ISG miss so many pre-1991 chemical weapons? Did Donald Rumsfeld do anything right? Why did US soldiers receive poor medical care in Iraq and then after they came home? Why wasn’t the Pentagon prepared to find poorly disposed of chemical weapons in Iraq? And, finally, what should the US do about it?

Today, Aaron and Jeffrey discuss C.J. Chivers’ latest piece in the New York Times, The Secret Casualties of Iraq’s Abandoned Chemical Weapons.

Sponsor:
Scrivener – A powerful content-generation tool for writers that allows you to concentrate on composing and structuring long and difficult documents.

And as always, you can subscribe to the (now better sounding) Arms Control Wonk Podcast on iTunes. If you liked today’s show, please take the time to review it on iTunes.

 
 

Divergent Trajectories, the Bomb, and Kashmir

President Barack Obama talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India during their bilateral meeting in the Oval Office, Sept. 30, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India during their bilateral meeting in the Oval Office, Sept. 30, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

The recent trips to the United States by Prime Ministers Nawaz Sharif and Narendra Modi provide ample evidence of India’s and Pakistan’s divergent trajectories. Nawaz arrived with no fanfare, a known commodity in familiar trouble back home. He delivered a lackluster speech at the U.N. General Assembly notable only for dwelling on Kashmir, which has always been a harmful issue for Pakistan. Nawaz met with Vice President Biden in New York along with a few foreign leaders (at their request), and then left for home, where he faces unrelenting political opposition.

Modi arrived in New York as an ambitious, contentious, and intriguing figure with an electoral mandate to revive India’s fortunes. He spoke proudly in Hindi, promised much with few specifics, and met with a rapturous crowd of Indian-Americans at Madison Square Garden. Then on to the White House, long meetings with President Obama, and a fancy dinner during which the guest of honor fasted.

Love him or hate him, Modi is a charismatic leader who has everyone’s attention. Pakistan has previously been led by a charismatic leader, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who disappointed badly. Nawaz does not need charisma – he needs to rouse himself to lead, or step aside to let his most capable Party members do their best to reverse the country’s decline. If he is incapable of both, Pakistan could find itself with another charismatic figure unable to govern effectively. One of Nawaz’s primary tormentors has withdrawn his parliamentarians rather than offering new legislative initiatives. The other calls for a revolution.

Modi offers hope to his electorate and to the Indian diaspora. Nawaz’s record does not engender hope. Modi and Obama signed off on a vision statement. Nawaz has always lacked vision. He builds motorways, but to his credit, he is doing more to improve power generation than the previous, lackluster civilian government. The U.S.-India joint statement was suffused with promises. U.S.-Pakistan relations can do without lofty promises, since the past is littered with them. It will suffice if both Pakistan and the United States can work in tandem through the difficult security dilemmas they have co-created.

Read Full Story →

 
 

Where is Kim Jong-Un?

Where is Kim Jong-Un? Is he sick? Has there been a coup? Or is North Korea simply trolling DPRK watchers?

Today, Jeffrey and Aaron speak with Andrea Berger, a Research Fellow at RUSI, about North Korea, Kim Jong-Un’s whereabouts, the DPRK’s nuclear doctrine, and whether or not North Korea wants to be seen as a responsible nuclear state.

Sponsor:
Scrivener – A powerful content-generation tool for writers that allows you to concentrate on composing and structuring long and difficult documents.

And as always, you can subscribe to the (now better sounding) Arms Control Wonk Podcast on iTunes. If you liked today’s show, please take the time to review it on iTunes.

 
 

Safeguards in Vienna

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

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

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

Read Full Story →

 
 

The New Nuclear

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

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

Read Full Story →

 
 

Concerns about Iran’s Nuclear Program in the Gulf

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

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

 
 

The Wind and the Lion

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

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

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