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Showing posts from January 16, 2016

To End North Korea’s Nuclear Program, End the Korean War

Pyongyang’s latest nuclear test may be a last-ditch effort to get on the U.S. agenda before Obama leaves office and a hawkish new president comes in.

By Christine Ahn

(Photo: Gabriel Britto / Flickr)

North Korea announced recently that it had successfully detonated its first hydrogen bomb. “This test is a measure for self-defense,” state media announced, “to firmly protect the sovereignty of the country and the vital right of the nation from the ever-growing nuclear threat and blackmail by the U.S.-led hostile forces.”

South Korea, Japan, and China were swift to respond with condemnation, as was the UN Security Council, which issued a statement that North Korea’s test was a “clear violation of Security Council resolutions” and resolved to take “further significant measures.”

Many observers, however, including nuclear weapons experts and government officials, doubt whether North Korea really did test a hydrogen bomb.

“I don’t think this was a hydrogen bomb,” said Bill Richardson, a former di…

Increasing Accuracy and Flexibility in Nuclear Weapons Actually Undermines Arm Control

When nuclear weapons become user-friendly, they will be used.

By Russ Wellen

The B-61-12 is a “dial-a-yield,” weapon, which means the explosive power can be tailored to its target. (Photo:

The B-61 is 12-foot-long, 700-pound thermonuclear (hydrogen) bomb that has been a stalwart of the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal since the 1960s. (Hey, at least it’s not as old as the B-52 bomber, which first flew in — you guessed it — 1952.) Its re-design, which now makes it the B-61-12, has generated even more controversy than nuclear weapons in general. Here are three of the sticking points.

First, the cost of refurbishing the U.S. nuclear weapons program: Up to $1 trillion over 30 years, it does — under the department of thank-goodness-for-small favors — lend credence to those who think that the program will die a slow death due to budgetary attrition.

Second, the B-61-12’s re-design: Is it actually a new weapon or just “modernization,” in accord with the administration’s stated aims…

Here’s the Thing About Terrorism Obama Won’t Tell You

Our wildly inflated fear of terrorism is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

By Peter Certo

State of the Union screen grab by Steve Baker / Flickr.

One in 3.5 million: That’s your annual risk of dying from a terrorist attack in the United States, at least according to Cato analyst John Mueller. Rounded generously, that comes out to roughly 3 one-hundred thousandthsof a percentage point, or 0.00003 percent.

And this, according to a recent Gallup poll cited by The New York Times, is the percentage of Americans “worried that they or someone in their family would be a victim of terrorism”: 51.

So that’s 51 percent of Americans who think a terrorist attack against themselves is sufficiently likely to warrant their personal concern, versus a 0.00003 percent chance it might actually happen. If you’ll forgive my amateur number crunching, that means Americans are overestimating their personal exposure to terrorism by a factor of approximately 1.7 million.

It’s no wonder people play the lottery.

A public mood…

IS: Just a Murderous Death Cult?

By Ian Sinclair

The language and framing we use to speak about an issue can either illuminate and help to explain or it can obfuscate and limit our understanding, and thus keep possible solutions out of reach.

Driven by the media’s McCarthy-style witch hunt of anyone who does not publicly denounce Islamic State (IS) in the strongest terms humanly possible, politicians and commentators have fallen into the dangerous habit of simplistically defining and dismissing IS.

They are an “evil death cult”, the Prime Minister told parliament in December 2015. Following her leader’s example, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan called them a “murderous death cult” on BBC Question Time. Not to be outdone, the neutral BBC’s Andrew Neil named them “A bunch of loser jihadists” and “Islamist scumbags” carrying out “Beheading, crucifixions, amputations, slavery, mass murder, medieval squalor… a death cult barbarity that would shame the Middle Ages.” The Left has scarcely been better.

Appearing on the BBC’s Sun…

Does China Hold Key To The Afghan Puzzle?

By Pepe Escobar

Just like Lazarus, there were reasons to believe the Afghan peace process might have stood a chance of being resurrected this past Monday in Islamabad, as four major players – Afghanistan, Pakistan, the US and China – sat together at the same table.

The final communiqué though was not exactly ground breaking: “The participants emphasized the immediate need for direct talks between representatives of the Government of Afghanistan and representatives from Taliban groups in a peace process that aims to preserve Afghanistan’s unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

A week before the Islamabad meeting, while in the Persian Gulf, I had an extremely enlightening conversation with a group of Afghan Pashtuns. After the ice was broken, and it was established I was not some Sean Penn-style shadowy asset with a dodgy agenda, my Pashtun interlocutors did deliver the goods. I felt I was back in Peshawar in 2001, only a few days before 9/11.

The first groundbreaker was that two Ta…