Saturday, April 16, 2005

The Schiavo Phenomenon and History


The murder of Terri Schiavo is an established fact, the points long discussed.

Mae Magouirk, an 85 year old woman of Lagrange, Georgia, took the trouble to make clear her wishes to continue receiving food and water, through a living will. Now, a relative with no legal standing has convinced a judge to murder her, anyway.

Steven D Levitt, a delusional economist, now argues that Abortion cut crime, an argument the New York Times finds worth advocating, regardless of the actual facts, which are evident in a simple consideration of modern cases like the Peterson murder, the "Railway Murder" serial killings, or Columbine High School.

It goes all the way back to 1859, when Charles Darwin wrote a book, now famously used to bolster the now-mainline theory of human existence. The entire title is noteworthy, however:

“On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.” [emphasis mine]

Yep. The book which became the basis for Evolution’s support in Science, was based on the claim that certain races were superior. While Darwin is careful to cite botanical examples, moving to insects and avian samples, he mixes them together in a rhetorical stew with little empirical evidence; his work reads like a dull novel, but for all its mendacity a clearly racist and sexist theme is clear.

Francis Galton (1822-1911) took the next step, which he initially called “deliberate social intervention”, but which became better known as the theory of Eugenics. Eugenics included the advocacy that only certain races should be allowed to have children, and “inferior” types, including people with physical or mental handicaps. Galton explained his theory as the “logical application of evolution to the human race.”

In 1904 the first Chair for a professorship in Eugenics was instituted at University College, London. The Galton Laboratory for National Eugenics was founded in 1907. In 1910, the Eugenic Record Office was founded in the United States. These groups pursued political influence for the purpose of advancing eugenics policies.

In 1931, Dr. Charles Killick Millard,president of the Society of Medical Officers of Health, brought up the question of voluntary euthanasia, and proposed a suitable law.

Project T4” was instituted in 1938 in Germany, initially as a plan to collect information on candidates for euthanasia. The committee in charge of the project was officially named the “Realms Committee for Scientific Approach to Severe Illness Due to Heridity”, and many of its members were put in charge of “Final Solution” camp implementations, as the hospitals used the same gas-showers and crematorium process as became infamous years later at the concentration camps.

Margaret Sanger, who founded Planned Parenthood, was oustpoken in her opinions.

In her book, Women and the New Race (1920), she wrote “The most merciful thing that a large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it."

In her book, Pivot of Civilization, she wrote that immigrants and the indigent were “human weeds,' 'reckless breeders,' 'spawning... human beings who never should have been born."

Her purpose in advancing Abortion, in the magazine Birth Control Review (1921), she was “to create a race of thoroughbreds”

In her book, Woman’s Body, Woman’s Right, Sanger is quoted as saying “We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population

Planned Parenthood has never renounced those opinions as being conflict with their own plans and goals.

What happened to Terri Schiavo in Florida, and is now happening now to Mae Magouirk in Georgia, was set in motion long ago, on a deliberate course which ultimate objective has been hidden from national discussion. It is now time to be quite clear, that one either chooses the presumption of Life as a fundamental right, with no racial, gender, age, physical/mental condition or cultural prejudices allowed in the decision, or one chooses to murder the inconvenient, as the Eugenists and Planned Parenthood have argued for more than a century.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

"Revelations" - An Advisory


OK, I admit I was curious.

So, I watched NBC last night to see "Revelations".




Never mind the really bad acting (sorry, but Bill Pullman would make 3-day-old oatmeal look exciting in comparison) and excremental writing apparent in the screenplay, it's fingernails-on-a-chalkboard to me, that they could imply a certain book of the Bible in the show's title, then completely ignore that book in what the show is about. It's about as logical as making a show about business integrity, and casting a dolt who keeps filing bankruptcy to dump his mistakes - wait, that's how 'The Apprentice' works, isn't it? OK, then it's like making a show about what it's like in the White House, then casting a liberal President instead of accurately reflecting the last 4 1/2 years under President Bush - wait, that's how 'The West Wing' works, I guess; NBC has a trend here.

Anyway, in case you are considering watching this show, I need to warn you, it's just another 'Omen' rip-off which heckles Evangelicals along the way.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Does God Hate People?

A friend at BeliefNet wrote about her belief that God hates her, because she is not Christian. In the course of our discussion, she presented Scripture which she feels proves her case, Here are those verses and my responses. My friend also selected the titles for each set:

1. Spiritually Dead
Ephesians 2:1-2 “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.”

We see all the time, how people do as they like, thinking they are good, simply because they are doing as they please. The Nazis, still emblematic of institutionalized evil, for the most part actually believe they were morally superior and ethical. Eugenics, Racism, Genocide, just for starters, all found value in their eyes because it pleased their moral relativism. And the Nazis were far from the only such example; we see all sorts of people who try to justify hate and selfishness, even to pretend they are doing good instead of base evil. This has always been so; when the Romans crucified Christ, they believed they were doing the good of maintaining social order under law, while Caiaphas believed he was letting one innocent man be killed, in order to prevent a bloodbath.
Man needs God. Always has, always will. And that means that we have to be open to His law and commandments, which comes from loving God and our neighbors. Call it “spiritually dead” or whatever you like, but in the mortal life we are missing a great part of our greater identity and purpose, to become greater than just animals.

2. Already Under God’s Wrath
Ephesians 2:3 ”All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.”

Seriously, we all do that, or once did. We desire a thing out of self, we act out of anger or greed or whatever, again listening only to that Self. It’s only the plain truth, that we need to be different than just follow selfish desires, even though that is our natural condition.

John 3:36 ”Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him.”

This is a hard lesson, but the key word is ‘reject’. Reject isn’t to misunderstand, or to consider carefully the object, but is defiance. Every day, we wake up and often take for granted the day we have been given. We have no assurance, none of us, that we will wake up the next morning, but God grants that life to us, every day. So eventually there comes a time, when we learn the truth of God, and at that point, we either accept it or not. I would also remind the reader, that Jesus’ own disciples, men who saw Him every day and heard all His words and teachings, missing nothing, had a very hard time accepting His truth. Read through the Gospel accounts, and see how many times Jesus asked why they still did not understand, still did not believe. It was only on the road to Jerusalem, where He was to be crucified, that Peter confessed openly that Jesus was the Christ, and even then, some of the disciples did not accept the truth. Thomas, in particular, is an example of how hard-headed these guys were. Don’t you think that, seeing how patient God was with these disciples with Christ, He would be even more patient with people trying to seek the truth without direct resources? So, don’t be afraid to seek out the truth, there is no sin in that! If I am wrong in my contention, you are wise to check out the matter, and if it happens that I am right, then you will be that much more confident in your faith, when you have arrived at your discovery. Just be sure that you do not despise Christ, if you find He is what He says. I would apply that same care to how I address the Buddha or Mohamed; while I have not found support to convince me that those beliefs are correct, I still accept that God reveals truth to those who will accept it, and I will not despise anything unless I know that it is evil, through discernment and the light of God’s grace. For example, I despise Communism, because I have discovered that Communism is always the enemy of the individual, denying individual honor and accomplishment in place of the collective, which is unjust.

3. Storing Up Ever Greater Wrath
Romans 2:5-6 "But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God "will give to each person according to what he has done."

In this verse, you should know that Paul was not writing to Pagans or Atheists, but rather to professed members of Christ’s fellowship, who nonetheless did as they pleased instead of obeying God. In Chapter 2, verse 3, Paul warns the Roman church clearly against hypocrisy, writing “Do you suppose, O man, that when you judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself, you will escape the judgment of God?” This verse then, was not a threat to those outside the Church, but a warning to those who claimed the Word.

Romans 1:29-31 "They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless."

Rome was the quintessential cosmopolitan city of Paul’s day, and as often happens when humans have a few things which work, they get proud and arrogant. This was the generation just before Nero, after all, and throughout human history we see all the things Paul writes about here. When has the world been without crime, even rapes and murders, even children killing parents and parents abusing their children and their spouses? Sadly, this verse is a telling barometer of a constant human equation of misery. The good news comes afterwards in this book, where Paul explains that God had made a better, even perfect, way available to us.

4. Law or Conscience Constantly Accuses
Romans 2:14-15 (Gentiles) ”show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.”

It’s commonly accepted that there is a sort of ‘natural law’, though it’s argued whether the law is natural or just taught to everyone, which prohibits certain acts and demands certain standards. You know, don’t kill the innocent, don’t be cruel to children or the weak, do accept responsibility for the effects of your actions, actions and even words have consequences, and so on. And the reason there are so many busy psychologists, is because yes, we do battle with our consciences in our minds, wrestling with the morality and weight of our decisions.

Romans 3:20 ”Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.”

This is actually a good bit of news, if you think it through. The problem, you see, is not compliance, but what is in our heart. If a man could be saved through his own works, then he might become proud of his own work, and forget the reason we serve God at all, which should be from love and in imitation of His holiness. Knowing we all suffer under sin, we realize that what we need, try though we might to do good, is to find a rescue from that sin, and the new life where sin is no part of us.

Romans 4:14 “…law brings wrath

Actually, that’s from verse 15, but it makes sense if you can read verses 14 and 15 together, so: “If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression”. The difference is the consequence of Grace, and the source of hope, which is faith. Law is about limits, whereas faith has no limits.

Galatians 3:10 ”All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.’ "

See my last answer.

James 2:10 ”For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.”

Same point. The law is the law, it is a restriction at best, and serves no purpose except to trip people up. Accordingly, the only resolution is to live by a better code.

5. Not one good deed accounted to their credit
Romans 3:12 “…there is no one who does good, not even one.”

And this is because only God is truly good. When we get high on our selfish egos, we want to claim things for ourselves, but in the end, we do only what we can, which at best makes proper use of the tools, skills, and resources God grants us. We either do what is our duty, or we do evil. This is good, though.
The Saturday before Easter, I took my daughter to an Easter Egg hunt. The church running the event had an interesting reward - everyone turned in their plastic eggs for candy, but everyone got the same amount of candy each, so it did not matter if someone grabbed a whole bunch of eggs. Everyone enjoyed the chance to pick up eggs freely, and no one was encouraged to be greedy or rude.
So, by not allowing even a single person to be able to claim that he does not need God’s grace, we are all granted the same grace, in the same measure.

Matthew 12:33-34 “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.”

Context is critical here. Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees, and addressing their critical flaw, but one common to many of us; they thought they were good men, but their actions showed the truth, that they pursued ego in place of God’s will, and their pride instead of acting with honor, and in selfishness in place of caring about others.

Isaiah 64:6 “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags

Same lesson.

Romans 14:23 “…everything that does not come from faith is sin.”

This sounds harsh, but it’s actually an important warning. When you drive, you don’t check your fuel gauge to know your speed. We all want to do well, and so we should focus on the spirit which drives goodness, the Holy Spirit granted us by God.

6. Incapable of pleasing God
Romans 8:8 “Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.”

Hebrews 11:6 “And without faith it is impossible to please God

From what I have written before, you should now be able to see why this is so. It is not because God does not want us to please Him, or that He should spite us in any way, but rather that if we are to succeed, we must learn what counts in matters of goodness, and pursue the right source.

7. Enemies of God
Romans 5:10 “…we were God's enemies

Context again. Paul is reminding the believers that they are completely changed from before. They do not do the things, they do not even think the way they used to, because they God now, where before they hated Him, even though they did not realize it.

Romans 8:7 “The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so.”

Paul writes here just what Jesus warned; a man can not have two masters. We are all so very used to getting our own way, to the point that we sometimes do and say what we know, at some deep level, is really wrong. And so unless we give ourselves up to God, we don’t want to obey Him; we want to be in control, not surrender to God. And even after one chooses to believe, he must always remember his former ways, not to cut himself down, but to focus on why he chose God in the first place.

Colossians 1:21 “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior.”

Again, we who believe all used to do as we wanted, and so would oppose anything that took away that control.

James 4:4 "You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.”

Again, remember that James wrote these words not to the general public, but to members of the church. One of the dangers of the Church is dilution of the Gospel. Christ did not die on the cross for us, so that we would be slightly better and mix His ideas in with a bunch of our own!

8. Incapable of Atoning for Sin
Psalm 49:7-9 “No man can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for him-the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough-that he should live on forever and not see decay.”

Thank you. That verse is one of the reasons I am so sure that Jesus Christ is God, as is His Father and the Holy Spirit. Jesus did what no ordinary man could do, and it explains some important points about God - God the Father could not die, lest satan win, nor could the Holy Spirit suffice in that role, being spirit in form. Christ alone was able, willing, and worthy.

Matthew 18:23-25 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.”

And when the man begged him for mercy, did not the king in that story forgive the entire debt, in essence taking the cost to himself?

Micah 6:6-7 “With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”

Same lesson. We cannot undo our sins, any more than a man can operate on his own heart. Just as a man must trust a surgeon for his body, so we must trust God for our soul’s rebirth.

9. Blind and Deaf to Spiritual Truth
Matthew 13:14 “In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: " `You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.”

That statement was not made to say so of all men, but to explain that if you will not consider the truth someone says, then no matter how well you understand the words, you will miss the message. The Pharisees, determined to beat down Jesus rather than consider the least of His teachings, closed the door to their own discovery.

1 Corinthians 1:18 “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

As before, we are all so very used to taking care of ourselves, the idea of depending on a God we do not see, do not touch, indeed whose very existence we cannot prove, would be foolish indeed in human eyes!

1 Corinthians 2:14 “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

It sounds strange, but if you are depending on material things, the things which are spiritual will seem very foolish.

2 Corinthians 4:3-4 “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

The idea of God blinding people so they cannot see sounds strange, but what Paul is getting act here, is that when we finally realize what God is, and we see the truth of the Gospel, we also realize that every bit of it, even the discovery of that truth is by God’s grace.

10. Incapable of Changing
Jeremiah 13:23 “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil.”

This is why Jesus spoke about the need to be ‘born again’. It puzzled Nicodemus to hear it, but Jesus was really speaking about basic, fundamental transformation. We cannot be different on our own, but God makes us new, in His purpose as well as His image.

Ephesians 4:19 “Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.”

That speaks to habit. We all know that good eating and exercise habits are essential to healthy living, and also that poor eating habits and lack of exercise also becomes a habit. So much more so for the spirit!

Now, all these answers may or may not address the real questions you have for God, but this much I can assure you is true. God is neither hateful nor malicious, and everyone will receive either Mercy or Justice. On this all truth is based.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

The China Bluff


Well, once again we’re hearing about “America in Decline”. This time, it’s James Pinkerton in “NewsDay”, claiming to see “3 Signs of Impending ‘Asian Century’ “. Count me unawed. From what I read, Mr. Pinkerton is simply rehashing what he got from the State Council of China’s Ministry of Information. It can be amusing, though , to see him try to form an argument that can withstand a passing breeze of considered review.

Mr. Pinkerton begins with a sadly predictable tone, claming that a “peaceful - for now - struggle has been joined.” Apparently, the US-Sino conflicts of the past generation are just now reaching Mr. Pinkerton’s attention. Mr. Pinkerton bases his claim to a new threat, on what he calls “three huge fuses” in “the Far East”.

Pinkerton’s first “fuse” is the trip by China’s Prime Minister, Wen Jiabao, to India, and the blustering claim that China and India woud be the “two pagodas” of economic might in the coming “Asian Century”. Supposedly, the “strategic partnership for peace and prosperity," is going to "reshape the world order." Fortunately for the planet, but not so well for Pinkerton’s credibility, this is not the first time we’ve heard this sort of thing. Japan, South Korea, and Vietnam all claimed similar breakthroughs were just around the corner, but those never worked out.

The official Indian embassy, for one thing, comments that India is reaching agreements, unilaterally, with a number of Southeast Asian countries, especially Singapore, and continues to enjoy benefits from a Trilateral Agreement with Taiwan and Japan. The China claim is simply not unique.

Next, the Asian e-zine Muzinet sees serious problems with the Sino-India pact, noting that there is a “glass ceiling” to how far each country is willing to trust the other. The Muzinet article also observes that a long-standing border conflict between China and India is not only still unresolved, but that diplomats have described present efforts as the “last rung” of opportunity to resolve the matter amicably.

Undeterred by facts, Pinkerton next claims that “China is also poking yet another hole in the worldwide arms embargo imposed on it by the United States after the 1989 Tienamen Square massacre.” That claim, frankly, made me laugh out loud, because it admits on its face that China is operating within the constraints of American military, diplomatic, and economics power, projected far from the US border. It’s like an ant boasting, because the human only wiped out 90% of his mound. But Pinkerton blithely misses this simple fact of reality, preferring instead to fantasize that China and India, already Regional Superpowers in his mind, “should have little trouble obtaining the rudiments of just about any kind of weaponry.” Pinkerton displays appalling ignorance of the state of India and China’s military infrastructures. Both countries should be able to defend themselves adequately, for reasons of terrain and other salient elements, but neither country has reached the level of technology to address even the 1991 level of US capability, to say nothing of serious doctrinal faults. For example, the rigid command structure in both nations prevents utilization of independent forward command, a basic element necessary to employ AirLand Battle tactics. It only gets worse, when the actual level of training is considered.

Pinkerton, seeing the weaknesses in this imagination he has presented, hurried on to another fiction, claiming “the historic hostility between China and Japan, a close U.S. ally for 60 years, is bubbling back into violence.” That statement is actually quite true, but the truth is much more serious for China. In addition to Japan, China also has exceptionally poor relations with Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, and both Koreas. One critical problem China is in developing a hegemony, is that they must bully their neighbors to have it, and cannot rely on their cooperation. This is not a recipe for dominance; quite the opposite. A clear signal was sent during the Indonesian Tsunami, where the Indonesian and Indian governments, no great friends of the United States, nonetheless asked for the US Navy to protect their coasts while rescue and recovery operations were underway, a clear slap at China.

Pinkerton’s “third fuse” is North Korea, suggesting that China will be willing to let North Korea delivery nuclear weapons to terrorists – unless the U.S. submits to Chinese demands. The fact that North Korea has not yet tested a nuclear weapon, let alone begun a stockpile, makes the question far less solid than Pinkerton wants us to think. Worse, Pinkerton displays an appalling lack of consideration about the Chinese way of thought. China does not like the United States form of government, but they are fully aware that a nuclear event on American soil would provoke an unquestioned retaliation in the same kind, and to a greater scale. China, boast though it does, can at best threaten the West Coast of the United States, which does not come close to the devastation the U.S. can mete out in a full exchange. The United States needs to prepare for the North Korean threat, but the Chinese Politburo is not rash enough to allow Pyongyang to start a cataclysm. If Pinkerton understands this fact, but published his claim anyway, he is a boorish lout. If he really fails to understand even the basic truths of these relationships, he is an utter fool. For my part, I will simply observe that like all the doomsayers before him on this point, Pinkerton is unquestionably wrong, and his claims do no more than distract from more substantial issues and conditions.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Terrorism and Nuclear Weapons


Part of the problem in fighting International Terrorism (those groups which are based in one country, and do their dirty work in other countries), is that so much of the cause and history of the conflict is hidden away, classified as secret or too intricate in details to attract much attention. This is especially the case in the matter of nuclear weapons proliferation, and the efforts by terrorists to acquire such weapons.

There are three reasons why we are winning that war, though people don’t hear them much, if at all. Those reasons are technical, political, and military, and they should be considered when weighing the peril and object of this war.
We have been unduly influenced by movies and television. To many people, it’s simply a matter of picking up a "suitcase nuke", which seem to be just lying around unguarded, and taking it to the target city, which is saved only through the unconventional thinking and bad acting of a ‘Jack Bauer’ type to save the day. The actual facts should be a bit more comforting. It’s true that if you get enough fissionable material together in one place, you create a critical mass, which leads to a reaction. But considering that radioactive material exists naturally without blowing up spontaneously, it follows that creating fissionable material is an artificial action, and a difficult one. People do not often consider that nuclear fission was mathematically understood in 1931, yet the first actual atomic weapon was not made until 1945, although a number of nations put their best minds and great resources to the task for years. Nuclear weapons are dangerous for a number of reasons; detonation is only one of them. There are functionally only three ways in which a terrorist group could detonate a nuclear weapon against a target nation:

1. Steal an inventory nuclear weapon, transport it to the target country, and find a way to set it off.

2. Build a nuclear weapon, using the group’s own experts and material.

3. Acquire a nuclear weapon through a third party, usually a nuclear-capable nation.

At first glance, these methods sound similar, but they truly are not. The first method considers the known stockpiles in the former Soviet Union; all other stockpiles are too well defended to be easily stolen, especially by a group with no insider knowledge of the country’s protections and order of logistics. But even the Soviet situation is not as perilous as some believe. That is, the Soviets kept lousy records on many things, but they cared about the WMD, and especially the nuclear warheads. Small wonder - it’s no secret that the Chechnyan rebels would very much like to get their hands on a nuke, which they would certainly use on a Russian target. Anybody want to guess how important nuclear warhead security became to the Soviets after 1995? The simple fact is, warheads are well-protected, even in places where the public perception doesn’t show it. Another indicator of better-than-advertised former-USSR security, is the sort of captures made in those countries. What’s basically happening is, groups are being caught in attempts to steal/buy spent reactor rods and missile parts. While these are important, they demonstrate that the groups chasing these things have largely given up on the warheads. It makes the issue a problem, but not to the degree it’s portrayed.

The second method is obviously the most difficult, so I will come back to it. The third method, using a third party, is where Israel, China, Pakistan, and Iran come in. These countries have all made money by selling nuclear tradecrafts, like telemetry and tolerances of specific metals, which can advance a program by saving money and time on tests and development. Formerly, Iraq was the foremost of these nations, known to be seeking WMD and simultaneously sponsoring more than a dozen international terrorist organizations. One sidelight of the Iraq conflict, though often ignored, is the proxy war paid for and directed by Wahhabist forces, especially Iran and Syria. This is an example of how terrorists pursue their unconventional warfare through indirect methods. But while this can frustrate conventional American response to terrorist incursions, it also dissuades the use of unconventional weapons - if, for example, Hezbollah were to gain access to a nuclear weapon and attack U.S. forces or an American target with it, the U.S. would not hesitate to deliver a nuclear reprisal to Iran and Syria. Those countries understand this fact, and this is one key reason those countries now demand tighter control of their sponsored forces; given substantial provocation, the United States can and will respond to a terrorist attack by taking out a significant target in a country basing or coordinating that group. In other words, a terrorist group can run and hide, but Teheran and Damascus cannot. Therefore, they will not supply terrorists with nukes, so long as Bush or a President who thinks like he does is in office.
So for now, any functional ability for a terrorist group lies in either building one themselves, or by stealing one from a country with inferior security; neither is a high-probability function. The second category is especially difficult for a terrorist group, because of the nature of the mission. Terrorists strike in three basic methods: High visibility attacks against low-security targets, especially in public places; Suicide attacks to attack secure positions in order to instill fear; And bombings/sniper attacks to destabilize government functions. A nuclear strike by a terrorist group is a suicide attack by definition, because no terrorist group would be willing to try a remote detonation, and risk premature discovery of the bomb. The fly in the ointment, is that a nuclear weapon is not a ‘fire and forget’ kind of device; manual detonation means the team preparing the weapon is the team firing the weapon, and that means the terrorists would lose their best talent in using the thing; it becomes a one-shot project, not a sequence of nuclear events. This is because a nuclear weapon is generally tested before its use in action, an option not available to terrorists, which means that the team which makes the weapon ready, will need to be there for its use; first-generation nuclear weapons, which is the definition for this situation, are by nature one-of-a-kind, with no extant manual to provide for a standard procedure; even if the terrorists managed to steal an inventory nuke, and procure a tech team familiar with the weapon, the unconventional use of the weapon and conditions for its operation would require a direct manual detonation. That creates a serious problem for the terrorists. First off, most people do not realize the careful and prolonged indoctrination terrorists use to prepare suicide attackers; it’s simply not a natural condition to plan on killing yourself, even less to deliberately kill yourself in the action of murdering innocents. Also, people with high technical knowledge are less likely to be suicide bombers. The 9/11 attackers were trained only to a certain point, and their life conditions were tightly regulated; the necessary education and experience necessary to develop and prepare a nuclear device practically eliminates such people as even possible suicide bombers.

The next element is political. As I noted above, the nuclear capability of nations is fairly well known, Congressional point-the-finger committees notwithstanding. Besides the technical means (Satellites, NSA intercepts, etc.), the Community of the Nuclear Club is real. One incident old enough to talk about, is the 1981 raid on Osirak. Iraq was clearly developing a nuclear program, and the Osirak reactor was intended to produce enriched uranium for the bomb, possibly even plutonium. The fact that the reactor wasn’t even running any power to nearby cities was a giveaway, I guess. Anyway, the raid to close down the plant was officially Israeli, but the HUMINT was largely Russian, and the Sat/Phone recon was American. Unconfirmed reports even claimed German and Egyptian assistance at various points. The mission, all told, was fairly ecumenical, because no one wanted to see Saddam with a nuke. The fallout from the raid began with the fact that most of the nations involved never realized that the Israelis would be the ones actually carrying out the mission. This incident reflects not only the unpublicized coordination between rival agencies and nations at times, it also explains why those cooperative actions are not constant.

Following the Gulf War victory in 1991, the United States found itself in an unexpected position. Prior to the Gulf War, the US enjoyed the repute of a Superpower, but shared that name with the Soviet Union, and sometimes with nations like China or Japan, when the description was limited to specific venues like Economics or Diplomacy. What changed after the Gulf War, was that the United States was no unparalleled in stature. The French sneered and called us a ‘hyperpower’, but in plain fact, the United States became the first nation in three centuries, which can act with effective impunity in any national enterprise. That hardly makes a license for recklessness, but it does shift the expectations of the International Community. That is, where the United States used to be considered an important member and sometime leader of international effort, now the United States is expected to take the lead, and to act first. This also explains part of the problem in the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts – the United States was expected to act first and did so, learning only after its own commitment, what other nations intended. Worse, where the United States was a counterweight to the old USSR, now a loose confederation of old European states sees itself as the natural counterweight to America. The US created a coalition of 41 nations for the Iraq effort, often ignored by the media, the more so because the nations participating did so to a lesser degree than the US in many ways. This sounds like a limited commitment, until one considers that in comparing the manpower, money, and material in World War 2, the US was the majority contributor from 1943 to 1945 for the Western Front, yet no one claims the British, Dutch, and French were not full allies. Most agreements made by the US have multi-level protocols, some of which conflict with the public image presented by the nations. Saudi Arabia in particular, speaks one way in public yet quite another when asking for American actions. In the contest against International terrorism, it must be understood that few nations feel free to denounce specific terrorist groups and actions as the US does, for fear of a Madrid-style attack. There is also the complication of apparent alliances these nations do not want; if Jordan ,for instance, publicly joins the United States in decrying Hezbollah and Ansar al-Islam, they run the risk of being called an ally of Israel, unacceptable in Arab cultures and political thought. So, Jordan assists the United States informally, and with the caveat that the agreements be kept strictly private. This means that functionally, there is a lot going on under the surface in the Middle East, especially in counter-terrorism operations, which are in every regional government’s interest, save the terrorists’ sponsors, but the public is not informed of these operations. The public does not hear, for instance, how inspectors were tipped off to Iran’s nuclear enrichment program, or how it is that a specific number of North Korean plutonium storage locations has been cited. This is an important aspect to the effort, and one which does not press in the American MSM, either.

Then there is the military. There is not a professional military organization on the planet, which has any tolerance either for nuclear weapons or terrorists; neither serves any true purpose in national defense, and both represent threats which must be met. Accordingly, the eradication of terrorist groups which are seeking access to nuclear weapons is automatically a high priority. Democrats do not understand the strong support George W. Bush enjoys with the troops; this is largely a matter of basic communication. Bush took the trouble to find out what were the troops’ top priority, and addresses them. It’s not necessary to be perfect, because he’s aligned with them on the priorities and goals. The troops in Iraq are not casual about the risks and costs, but they are deeply committed to the task of fighting terrorism, and especially about removing any group which is pursuing WMD. Congress can claim what it likes, but the troops are on board. This is the signal difference between failed missions like the Vietnam conflict, and successful missions like World War 2. This invasion and establishment of a free representative republic in Iraq is more than a successful replacement of a dictatorship with a democratic republic; it also realigns the region, setting a trend which at best will spread to other nations; at worst it will make terrorist groups’ work much harder. Things have changed in the Middle East, and the effect is firmer and more permanent than the media suggests.

Can a terrorist group can access to a nuclear weapon? Theoretically, but the chances of it happening went down significantly when Saddam was taken out. Could a nation decide to supply a terrorist group with a nuke? Theoretically yes, but the realistic chances of that sort of thing happening went essentially to nil after the Bush Doctrine became reality. That is the sort of element left out of far too many equations.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

The Evolution of Nuclear War Planning


Nature abhors a vacuum, we are told, and that certainly applies to planning. What I mean is, the planning in any situation not only acquires the influence of direct intentions, but also the influence of contextual effects.

In 1945, the United States dropped two atomic bombs on Japanese cities, ostensibly to compel unconditional surrender. While I believe this is true, I also agree that President Truman was sending a message to Stalin. The side effect of that message was the all-out effort by the Soviets to get their own nuke, which was successful, and in its own side effect began a long Intelligence war.

By 1962, the fear that the U.S.A. and U.S.S.R. might destroy the world through a nuclear nightmare was an exaggerated rumor; there simply was not enough nuclear material to kill off the planet, a comforting condition lost over the next generation. The Cuban Missile Crisis concealed a deeper problem, however - proliferation of Nuclear Weapons technology, to countries like communist China, France, India, and Israel, some of whom were considered a bit less than completely stable.

Roll up to 1976. The Communists had developed their nuclear forces through two motives - fear of a US nuclear ultimatum, and as a fallback in the event of invasion, a neglected but ubiquitous fear in Communist countries. With the unexpected victory in Vietnam, however, the Communists set aside old plans and became aggressive in South America and Africa, creating or emboldening movements in dozens of countries, along the way creating dozens of international terrorist groups, like the Red Brigade and its like. They never planned on Ronald Reagan.

The significance of Ronald Reagan may never be fully understood by the average person, especially on the Nuclear level. By his election in 1980, the United States was at a low tide of influence, and many experts thought the U.S. would depend on unconventional warfare to stave off defeat in its many conflicts. Vietnam, they claimed, proved the United States could not prevent revolution, and the lack of effective conventional force diluted American influence in Europe, which was not beginning but continuing a slow surrender to Communism, by first setting up Socialist governments. The Conventional Wisdom was that the U.S. should try to get the best deal it could, while it possessed something of importance, albeit one in decline. Ronnie changed all that, drastically.

The victory in Grenada, the pressure on Cuba, the tough stance in El Salvador and Nicaragua, all were discounted because they appeared small, but they were part of a greater strategy, which countered the Communists and terrorists where they could not prevent American victory. The Achille Lauro incident, with its subsequent midair interception of the terrorists, showed not only resolve but competency, and raised the stock of American military credibility. This addressed the nuclear element, by showing the U.S. could and would act effectively, without even needing to consider a nuclear dimension.

The early theory of Nuclear Warfare, was essentially to use nukes as a trump card in reserve if your nation had them, and to chase their acquisition if your nation did not. That developed to a condition where both sides held nukes, but without a clear strategy for their use; they could kill and destroy a great deal, but were not precise enough or plentiful enough to single-handedly decide a war, and they were nasty enough to repel casual use. The proliferation issue only raised the stakes; no one who had nukes, could afford to set them aside.

With Reagan’s aggressive use of conventional forces in unconventional opportunities, the value and importance of nuclear arsenals was diluted. The Intelligence War was also in full swing, but the classification of vital data prevents full explanation of how Reagan’s CIA swung things around. Suffice it to say, that Casey at CIA and Faurer at NSA, with Bob McFarlane all through things, drove the Soviets nuts. The USA wins in Intelligence, though unreported by the press, were important factors driving Soviet acquiesence in WMD talks.

Fast forward to now. The number of nations which possess nuclear weapons capability is almost the same size as it was in 1984, an impressive feat of control. The number which possess effective arsenals is smaller still. The question most worrisome these days, is the risk of terrorist acquisition of nuclear weapons, which is worth an extended work itself, but from a military point of view, the risk is actually negligible. What’s more, increased accuracy has actually led to much smaller warheads. The question then, is how to reduce the risk of nuclear conflict by other countries, the most serious risk being the possibility of an India-Pakistan exchange, escalated by China involvement for any number of reasons. This is the real trick to the North Korea warhead question - China has carefully made no public statement supporting or condemning the issue of NK nukes, though private sources indicate that Beijing has sent clear signals to Pyongyang that if they cross certain triplines, there are no restrictions to the potential Chinese response. Ironically, both NK and the PRC are looking to the United States to resolve the impasse, even as both nations publicly decry American involvement.