Sunday, October 08, 2006

Does Ted Koppel read the blogs?

Do you think Ted Koppel's been reading the blogs? Westhawk quotes Koppel's column in the International Herald Tribune, in which he coincidentally ideas to deter nuclear proxy warfare that were earlier circulated on the blogs.

If Iran is bound and determined to have nuclear weapons, let it. … But this should also be made clear to Tehran: If a dirty bomb explodes in Milwaukee, or some other nuclear device detonates in Baltimore or Wichita, if Israel or Egypt or Saudi Arabia should fall victim to a nuclear "accident," Iran should understand that the U.S. government will not search around for the perpetrator. The return address will be predetermined, and it will be somewhere in Iran.

The idea of an unacknowledged tit-for-tat against roge state sponsors of terrorism was not only bruited by Westhawk before Koppel, it was described on the original Belmont Club site in February, 2005.

Long before a faculty lounge in Islamabad or Riyadh realizes it can build a bomb alone and secretly, the same thought will have occurred to individuals in Tel Aviv, New Delhi or Palo Alto. Any Islamic group that believes it can attack New York deniably should convince itself that no similar group can nuke Mecca at the height of the pilgrim season. In fact, the whole problem that Coll describes should be generalized. The only thing worse than discovering that New York has been destroyed by persons unknown is to find that Islamabad has been vaporized by a group we've never heard of.

The idea appeared again somewhat later in September 14, 2006 in the post entitled A Joke at the Kremlin, which described Vladimir Putin's warning to Nathan Sharansky that the West could be struck by suitcase bombs carried by terrorist proxies. Nuclear weapons without a return address. The idea of unmarked retaliation was contined in my fiction reply to Putin:

But how if Sharansky told Putin. "Yes, Vladimir. Imagine a wonderful dusk in Moscow, or Teheran, or Damascus. The work of the day is done; and strong, capable men lock their safes and wait for the limousines to carry them to the secret policeman's ball. There will be women, wine! Especially in Teheran there will be wine! And somewhere on those darkened streets a man may take a suitcase from a car and sets it very carefully in a bus station locker. Quietly. As if he were afraid to awaken something sleeping. Not from my country, Vladimir. But from some other, lawless country, one that doesn't want to get its hands dirty — who will perpetrate their attacks without a return address. What should we do about that Vladimir?"

But unattributed retaliation against terrorist sponsors only works as long as the terrorist sponsors are sole producers of nuclear weapons. If fanatical cultists like Osama Bin Laden had an independent capacity to manufacture nukes, no regime of proportional retaliation would result in stable deterrence for reasons described in the Three Conjectures. The murderous cycle of retaliation would continue until someone willed himself to do the unimaginable.

Consider a case where Islamic terrorists obliterate a city, causing five times the deaths at Hiroshima and an American limited response. ... In a war between nations, the conflict might stop at this point. But since there is no one with whom to negotiate a peace and no inclination to stop anyhow, the Islamic terrorists will continue while they have the capability and the cycle of destruction continues. ... At this point, a United States choked with corpses could still not negotiate an end to hostilities or deter further attacks. There would be no one to call on the Red Telephone, even to surrender to. In fact, there exists no competent Islamic authority, no supreme imam who could stop a jihad on behalf of the whole Muslim world. Even if the terror chiefs could somehow be contacted in this apocalyptic scenario and persuaded to bury the hatchet, the lack of command and control imposed by the cell structure would prevent them from reining in their minions. Due to the fixity of intent, attacks would continue for as long as capability remained. Under these circumstances, any American government would eventually be compelled by public desperation to finish the exchange by entering -1 x 10^9 in the final right hand column: total retaliatory extermination.

Islamic terrorists which do not represent states but only themselves; which consist of groups answerable to no more than a handful of fanatics yet have the power to kill millions can only be met — if they can be met at all — by the most radical form of excision. There is no stable plateau at which the process of retaliation would naturally halt. There are no ledges on which the falling stone of destruction will catch. Stopping the serial destruction of the world's cities would require a response so dreadful and so unthinkable that almost any effort to win the war on terror to prevent this fantastic exchange would be well worth it. We are living in the last minutes of what I called the Golden Hour — the window in which this WMD-enabled terrorism can be prevented with a minimum of human suffering. And we are probably frittering the time away. But at least, maybe Ted Koppel reads the blogs, or the idea has occurred to him independently, so there's hope yet.


Blogger John Lynch said...

The Cold War policy was to meet any nuclear detonation with a full retaliatory strike. That's the only way to deter terrorist bombs.

For the moment (and this may change) only states have the resources to make atomic bombs. Retaliating against all of our enemies with a nuclear capability in the case of any nuclear attack against the US has four main advantages.

1. There is no possibility of escaping responsibility, since we won't try to determine the origin of the attack.

2. An enemy could be made to re- think having a nuclear capability at all, since it might be destroyed through no fault of its own.

3. Enemy states will have a large incentive to not cause proliferation. Nukes outside of their control could lead to their destruction.

4. Enemy states will have a reason to restrain each others behavior, for their own survival.

For these reasons a policy of total retaliation has a better chance of deterring an attack on the US. Since we are not going to prevent an Iranian bomb, this is the alternative. Any limited retaliation in policy or practice has the shortcomings Wretchard describes.

No, I'm not crazy. This is the policy we lived with for over 40 years in regards to the USSR, and until the 70s toward China. It's not pretty but it worked.

10/08/2006 06:53:00 AM  
Blogger Pierre Legrand said...

Hey but suitcase nukes don't exist!

Proxy Terrorism From Iran a warning from Sharansky and Putin

10/08/2006 07:18:00 AM  
Blogger Meme chose said...

The central issue we are now facing is an old one, just applied now to more remote locations, as the world has suddenly been shrunk by globalization and access to WMD. That issue is whether communities will take responsibility for the actions of their own members.

As Wretchard suggests, Muslims who take an insouciant line on the behavior of their young men, as almost all of them do, should reflect on the fact that only one answer has ever been found to this question. You take responsibility, and you deal with your own, or we exterminate you all and 'let God sort them out'. In the end there is no escaping this responsibility.

This has been applied so universally down the centuries that we can at least be certain that, given the chance and if the circumstances were reversed, they would do the same, or worse, to us.

One tell-tale sign I would look for is a US program to manufacture more nuclear weapons, based on the realization that if we go down this path we will need a lot to use plus a lot to be available as a reserve from the next day forward.

10/08/2006 07:33:00 AM  
Blogger Woman Catholic said...

John Lynch, obviously the Russians no longer believe this doctrine is operative, since they are going full steam ahead on rigging Iran for nuclear power. My policy would be to cancel any U.S. government contract with Russia (ie. space station, babysitting nuclear waste, de-militarization, etc.) in roughly the same amount they receive from the mullahs for their reactors. Money talks, bolshevik walks.

10/08/2006 07:37:00 AM  
Blogger John Lynch said...

The Russians are a problem in regards to Iran. We can't nuke them without a full nuclear war, and they know that. Nor would that be a good idea, anyway. They aren't the enemy they once were. They can make trouble for us, but there are a lot of ways to deal with them diplomatically. They can be talked to. Same with PRC.

10/08/2006 07:48:00 AM  
Blogger 3Case said...


As time goes I believe less and less in their insouciance and more and more that they are but vultures...waiting.

10/08/2006 08:05:00 AM  
Blogger John Lynch said...

We seem to be making new warheads from old ones.

10/08/2006 08:08:00 AM  
Blogger Dave H said...

john lynch, that is solid reasoning. Unfortunately I cannot see the likelihood of its application short or an event which de-capitates the USA from its civilian government controls.

Oddly, maybe it is more of a possibility under a left wing administration, which I certainly think has a high probability of ending in a nuclear strike against serveral US cities.

The problem of Russia could possibly be solved under your formula with selective strikes on their leadership, needs to be made clear to them that the results would follow automatically not be under the control of ditherers.

I judge that Teresita's idea would not work, if left in exactly the same econpmic position as a consequence os selling nuclear arms, I would be afraid they would simply choose the option causing the most trouble for the USA.

10/08/2006 08:10:00 AM  
Blogger Ilia Capitolina said...

Islamic terrorists represent Jihad. Anywhere and everywhere, anyone and everyone who subscribes to that ideology and blood cult, should expect total retaliatory extermination.

10/08/2006 08:21:00 AM  
Blogger John Lynch said...

I'd love an alternative. This one sucks, but if we are not willing to go to war to prevent our enemies from getting nukes...

It really would help if both political parties would commit themselves to some sort of credible deterrant policy soon. That way a change of administration (which is inevitable eventually) won't be misinterpreted.

Perhaps a successful NK test would prompt some productive changes. There's been some Democratic talk about deterrance as a alternative to hitting Iran, and I'd like to know if they are serious about it. Are they really ready to kill that many people? If they aren't perceived as credible, then the worst possible case happens- we lose a lot of people and kill many many times more. I'd rather avoid that. That would be an enormous failure.

10/08/2006 08:30:00 AM  
Blogger hdgreene said...

Actually TK and the MSM promote the idea that we should only retaliate after acquiring enough evidence to convict far beyond a reasonable doubt -- complete with appeals all the way to the Supreme Court and beyond -- even to some local magistrate in Belgium who has the power to indite the President for war crimes. Such is the state of Current Practice on the Left. Is reality undermining the theoretical underpinnings?

10/08/2006 09:17:00 AM  
Blogger Melissus said...

While the window of opportunity is still open...
There is the option of preemptive nuclear strikes against rogue states developing WMD, such as Iran and North Korea.
It is the least awful among our bad options, but I believe it will be totally effective in stopping nuclear weapons proliferation dead.
Woe to us, that our body politique is incapable of coming to terms with the cats before they get out of their proverbial bag. Meme Chose (above) makes the important observation that each society must be responsible for its male youths' behavior, and this preemptive policy would be the consequence inflicted for their failure to do so.

10/08/2006 10:14:00 AM  
Blogger Dave H said...

I have dougts about the ability of this administration to respond to any provocation.

My feeling in 04 was that Kerry was an unprincipled opportunist grasbbing for power. At this point I would be more comfortable with him at the wheel, as far as the ability to retaliate goes. The left all have the Louis XIV syndrome "Le etat ces moi", once they get their paws on the reins of power God had better help anyone who damages their "property", they sure won"t.

Unfortunately there is another factor, the likelihood of catastrophic attack succeeding is quite a bit higher under a left wing administration.

What a choice, power mad left-wing lunatics, or well-meaning do-gooders, who cannot focus on the real enemy.

10/08/2006 10:18:00 AM  
Blogger Cedarford said...

teresita - John Lynch, obviously the Russians no longer believe this doctrine is operative, since they are going full steam ahead on rigging Iran for nuclear power.

And what exactly do Russians building 2 civilian nuke power plants have to do with a bomb? As long as fuel in a light water reactor is burned long enough, greater than 1/4 of fuel capacity in it's 1st cycle, the PU-239 becomes contaminated with Pu-241 and unsuitable for bomb material. Light water fuel loads and power gen levels are easily monitored by IAEA and by satellite.

It is the enrichment path that is the problem.

Any hanky panky with the Bushir reactors and Russia, IAEA compliant, would withdraw all tech support and proprietary components, leaving the Iranians with 3 billion in junk.

I have thought that, like Wretchard, the diffuse nature of Jihad and lack of command and control over WMD use would make for either no war, or war that would have to envelop the whole Ummah because there would be no one that could call off the Muslim side of hostilities or negotiate on their behalf.

But rather than 1 X 10^9 dead Islamoids, it seems in the Wests and certainly in the Islamoids interest to have dialogue on this major problem and try and establish protocols, and the Muslim equivalent of a hotline to the point of contact for Soviet Strategic Forces and Leadership in the Kremlin.

I would prefer to wait for 2 years for a new President due to Bush's baggage and questionable judgement, having lost a good deal of allies and global confidence - and his tendency to "go with his gut and see the souls in others eyes". And of course because he believes Islam is the Religion of Peace and are fellow worshippers he respects more than most people because they are religiously devout, like he is.

But the new President should consider a dimplomatic summit attended by not just the secular Muslim leaders, but religious Muslim leaders from the 4 Sunni schools and the Shiite hierarchy. To see if a deal can be worked out - that the West pledges that there will be no 1st use of WMD - and that the Muslims will similarly declare through the 4 schools and the Shiite one that 1st use of WMD is un-Islamic and forbidden by Fatwa. That any Muslim group that does so is apostate and at war with all of Islam. For waging unsactioned war by forbideen haram means, and for endangering the whole Ummah from threat of potential Western or Asian global thermonuclear war that would wreck the Ummah more than the Mongol invasion did. And from that danger to all Muslims, declare as part of the Fatwa that no good Muslim may abide or tolerate a Jihadi group operating outside State control, seeking WMD for use.

A lot of "what ifs, what abouts, but the next President may wish to check that option out rather than think the only alternative is cleaning tubes on 3 of our 8 Tridents and using a fraction of the 8,000 remaining warheads on delivery systems or in storage. Just not Bush II, please. And even then, it would best be halfway through the successor's term to allow him or her to try and patch things up with much of the world of our former allies to better get a global consensus that no 1st use, no non-state possession or use of any chem, bio, or nuke WMD (perhaps including EMP and global cyber-war), and agreement on who has the religious authority to declare Jihad.

Better than genocide. Better than saying to Moroccans without a lick of influence on Iran that they too must die if Iran uses nukes or that we have to wipe the UAE if the Egyptian brotherhood unleashes a virus. Not a good way to try and persuade Muslims to take a peaceful path is you tell them a collective death warrant will be signed for almost all of them for actions outside teir control enabled by the present structure of "disbursal of Islamic state and religious permissions for Jihad past Muslim leader's control"

And for those that say "what about Israel??", as if it is the center of the Universe and all US foreign policy - a possible is the Prince Abdullah Plan and Israel to be able to use it's vast, secret WMD stockpiles only if the agreed-on Israel Proper is invaded or Muslims violate a no 1st use of WMD pledge...

10/08/2006 12:41:00 PM  
Blogger Meme chose said...

Dave H,

I agree; once the Democrats get a chance to start their own war the rest of the world had better watch out. The Democrats will have little difficulty justifying in their own minds whatever conflict it is they want to engage in, and whatever measures prove necessary after it starts to preserve their amour propre.

10/08/2006 12:45:00 PM  
Blogger Robert Schwartz said...

The only thing that gives me any comfort is the fact that neither Iran not NoKo have tested a bomb, which they would undoubtedly do if they had one. I am therefor encouraged to think that it is a lot harder to build one than it is commonly suposed to be.

10/08/2006 05:37:00 PM  
Blogger Metaterra said...

Robert - Some timing, eh?

10/08/2006 09:43:00 PM  
Blogger Cedarford said...

Robert Schwartz said...
The only thing that gives me any comfort is the fact that neither Iran not NoKo have tested a bomb, which they would undoubtedly do if they had one. I am therefor encouraged to think that it is a lot harder to build one than it is commonly suposed to be.

Schwartz's timing on this was great!

S. Koreans score the highest on math and science tests of all peoples outside Singapore and Taiwan. S Korea is a major force in scientific papers and patents awarded. Their brothers in the North are deprived and indoctrinated, but not stupid.

Nukes aren't hard.

We and the Soviets did it with 60 year-old technology. The hardest work is just proving something can be done - then any group with the means and will can copy. A basic A-Bomb gun-type or implosion, as long as you have a "prompt critical" mass of fissile material then becomes engineering, precision manufacturing, and assembly work.

China built it's bomb 40 years ago back when they were as poor and totalitarian as the NORKs are.

If they want to, Japan, Australia, S Korea, and Taiwan could have bombs in a year. Thailand and the Philippines within 5. Hopefully, they don't go in that direction.

To counter say, Israel's vast secret WMD stockpile, Egypt, Turkey, Iran, KSA are all well-capable of starting a program and having high odds of success.

10/08/2006 10:22:00 PM  
Blogger istarious said...

And the minute they do that, Egypt, Turkey, Iran, KSA, and what ever other Jihadi outfit you care to add to the list, will see its vast demographic advantage over Israel, dwindle to zero.

10/09/2006 10:24:00 AM  
Blogger Philomathean said...

John Derbyshire would appear to agree with you, Wretchard. In the latest issue of The New English Review, Derbyshire has a piece titled The G-Word and the C-Word noting that America will soon face a choice between genocide and mass conscription. Key quote:

As best I can judge the mood of the present-day United States, I don’t believe that even a couple of flattened cities would drive us all the way down that spectrum of violence to the g-word end. I think it much more likely that our reaction to a super-9/11 would be a super-Iraq. That is, we should go to the MME in great force with the determination—not a vague, ill-thought-out, poorly-planned, under-funded attempt, but a real determination—to utterly transform the region.

10/09/2006 11:31:00 AM  
Blogger John (Useful Fools) said...

Shall we remember the last two wars the Democrats got us into: Korea and Vietnam?

Korea was totally mishandled which is why we have the Nork problem today.

Johnson showed that the Dems did not have the cojones to use necessary force. Once Nixon (already stripped of political capital by Johnson's bungloing) released the forces in the Christmas bombings, the war was over, with a win by us. The subsequent loss was a result of the Democrat congress which snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

Don't look to the Demos to wage a good war. Look to them to do a Clinton, and push the problem off to the next generation, or to use a legion of lawyers to deal with whoever set off the no-return-address nuke that wrecked LA.

10/10/2006 11:37:00 PM  

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