In July, I was asking myself:
Think about how a large terrorist operation might be able to cripple a city for days or weeks, and how will you counter that threat. Will that be different from countering dramatic changes in weather or catastrophic climate change?
Larry Johnson thinks that at least some of the response will have to be on a similar scale.
The crisis response to a hurricane is the same as a response to a terrorist attack. Restoration or services, remediation, and humanitarian help are the same regardless of whether it is man made or nature made. The biggest problems in any response are always the same--chain of command (i.e., figuring out who is in charge) and communication. It is inexcusable for the Bush Administration officials to claim they had no way of anticipating this disaster or planning for it. At least they've been consistent. We now know that the failure to plan for the aftermath in Iraq was but a precursor of things to come at home.
He Then wonders, like many of us, whether the Bush administration is actually prepared to defend against a terrorist attack on US soil.
Hopefully this debacle will inspire the Republican controlled House and Senate to get off their ass and demand the Bush Administration explain how it will respond if terrorists detonate a nuclear device in the harbor of New York City or Los Angeles. We don't know if or when such a tragedy will happen, but we do know it is something that could happen and that we should be prepared to handle. That is the purpose of holding crisis management exercises. You work on problems and potential solutions before you are in the midst of an actual crisis.
Larry suggests that the government probably has neither the necessary imagination nor the willingness to have done this already. Frankly, the incompetent response of the Bush administration in the wake of hurricane Katrina suggests that four years after 9/11, the administration is still not prepared to respond to emergencies of a regional scale.
President Bush conveyed his appreciation to the Prime Minister over India's strong commitment to preventing WMD proliferation and stated that as a responsible state with advanced nuclear technology, India should acquire the same benefits and advantages as other such states. The President told the Prime Minister that he will work to achieve full civil nuclear energy cooperation with India as it realizes its goals of promoting nuclear power and achieving energy security. The President would also seek agreement from Congress to adjust U.S. laws and policies, and the United States will work with friends and allies to adjust international regimes to enable full civil nuclear energy cooperation and trade with India, including but not limited to expeditious consideration of fuel supplies for safeguarded nuclear reactors at Tarapur. In the meantime, the United States will encourage its partners to also consider this request expeditiously. India has expressed its interest in ITER and a willingness to contribute. The United States will consult with its partners considering India's participation. The United States will consult with the other participants in the Generation IV International Forum with a view toward India's inclusion.
The Prime Minister conveyed that for his part, India would reciprocally agree that it would be ready to assume the same responsibilities and practices and acquire the same benefits and advantages as other leading countries with advanced nuclear technology, such as the United States. These responsibilities and practices consist of identifying and separating civilian and military nuclear facilities and programs in a phased manner and filing a declaration regarding its civilians facilities with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA); taking a decision to place voluntarily its civilian nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards; signing and adhering to an Additional Protocol with respect to civilian nuclear facilities; continuing India's unilateral moratorium on nuclear testing; working with the United States for the conclusion of a multilateral Fissile Material Cut Off Treaty; refraining from transfer of enrichment and reprocessing technologies to states that do not have them and supporting international efforts to limit their spread; and ensuring that the necessary steps have been taken to secure nuclear materials and technology through comprehensive export control legislation and through harmonization and adherence to Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) and Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) guidelines.
New Delhi is said to be keen to purchase at least six nuclear power reactors but was unable to do so inthe face of sanctions and restrictions imposed by Washington following the 1974 Pokharan nuclear test. These restrictions were also implemented by the Nuclear Suppliers Group which includes Russia.
Several obstacles remain before Indian can dream of purchasing nuclear power plants from the US. Firstly, President Bush will have to convince the Congress that cooperation with India on nuclear power technology is beneficial to the US interests. I am not certain that Congress will be all out in supporting sale of nuclear fuel for the Tarapur facilities (360 MW). IF the US congress agrees to these plans then getting the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) to cooperate with India will be fairly straightforward. France and Russia have been willing to help India with nuclear technology and fuel, but have been held back due to strong US resistance and pressure applied through the NSG.
Placing India's nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards is a welcome step. India's nuclear power program needs a great deal of transparency. I have been threatening to make a long post about India's nuclear power plans, so I will leave that issue for later.
One final thought on this small, but rather important development from India's point of view. US has been opposed to the Iran-Pakistan-India natural gas pipeline for quite some time now. This issue is likely to come up during the so called US-India Energy dialogue, if it did not come up during this visit by Manmohan Singh to Washington. In my opinion, India will be making a strategic mistake if it decides to slow down efforts to build the Iran pipeline due to opposition from the US.
...Now consider the risks in the administration's gamble. Pakistan, India's neighbor and rival, will seek a similar de facto blessing for its nuclear status.
...The administration's efforts to contain the nuclearization of Iran and North Korea may also suffer. Help in building civilian nuclear reactors is a carrot for countries that agree not to build nuclear weapons. If India can build such weapons and then munch the carrot anyway, why should others not aim to do likewise?
...Monday's U.S.-India communique is only a declaration of intent. To clear the way for U.S. assistance to India's civilian nuclear program, the administration will have to ask Congress for legislation. To salvage something of the nonproliferation regime, the administration will need buy-in from other nuclear powers. In both cases, the administration will need to convince a skeptical audience that the gains from its proposal outweigh the risks.
See also Stephen Cohen's piece India: America's New Ally? for an interesting take on why India-US can not be simplified under the rhetoric of natural allies.
UPDATE (07/25): Ila Patnaik engages in straight talk over the potential of nuclear power in India. In her piece and here again, I am hearing about radioactive gases from burning coal. Does anybody have an idea what might cause radioactive gases to come out of burning coal?
I just watched the latest Frontline episode titled A Company of Soldiers. Frontline crew spent the month of November 2004 with a company in Baghdad. They have done a very good job of documenting "the life of the ordinary GI in Iraq". You may be able to catch it on PBS some other time or online after Friday. Watch out also for Frontline's next offering "The Soldier's Heart" which will look at what the veterans go through psychologically.
Bloomberg news reports that
More than half of the more than 1,200 U.S. troops killed and more than 9,000 wounded in Iraq have come from insurgent attacks on the vehicles with homemade bombs and rocket-propelled grenades.
On December 8th at a town hall meeting for soldiers in Kuwait, US Army Spc. Thomas Wilson asked Sec. Rumsfeld why. I include the full transcript of the Q &A between Spc. Wilson and Secretary Rumsfeld, but I'd suggest listening to it.
Q: Yes, Mr. Secretary. Our soldiers have been fighting in Iraq for coming up on three years. A lot of us are getting ready to move north relatively soon. Our vehicles are not armored. We’re digging pieces of rusted scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass that’s already been shot up, dropped, busted, picking the best out of this scrap to put on our vehicles to take into combat. We do not have proper armament vehicles to carry with us north.
Ans: SEC. RUMSFELD: I talked to the General coming out here about the pace at which the vehicles are being armored. They have been brought from all over the world, wherever they’re not needed, to a place here where they are needed. I’m told that they are being – the Army is – I think it’s something like 400 a month are being done. And it’s essentially a matter of physics. It isn’t a matter of money. It isn’t a matter on the part of the Army of desire. It’s a matter of production and capability of doing it.
As you know, you go to war with the Army you have. They’re not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time. Since the Iraq conflict began, the Army has been pressing ahead to produce the armor necessary at a rate that they believe – it’s a greatly expanded rate from what existed previously, but a rate that they believe is the rate that is all that can be accomplished at this moment.
I can assure you that General Schoomaker and the leadership in the Army and certainly General Whitcomb are sensitive to the fact that not every vehicle has the degree of armor that would be desirable for it to have, but that they’re working at it at a good clip. It’s interesting, I’ve talked a great deal about this with a team of people who’ve been working on it hard at the Pentagon. And if you think about it, you can have all the armor in the world on a tank and a tank can be blown up. And you can have an up-armored humvee and it can be blown up. And you can go down and, the vehicle, the goal we have is to have as many of those vehicles as is humanly possible with the appropriate level of armor available for the troops. And that is what the Army has been working on.
Pop Quiz. Which vehicle would you want to be driving through downtown Fallujah?
Uh, yea. I thought so.
I was shocked when I heard Rumsfelds Q&A on the radio. If you commit your troops to battle, especially in a pre-emptive war, you owe it to them to provide good protection. There will always be tradeoffs, you can't give every soldier the latest, greatest, most expensive, set of gear. But giving them a HumVee armoured with canvas is irresponsible.
There are two ways to produce armoured Humvees,
One method is to add armor kits to unprotected Humvees. The other way is to build them from scratch at the factory. The latter are known in Pentagon-ese as up-armored Humvees; they offer more protection than the retrofitted variety but take longer to produce.
A new up-armored Humvee costs about $150,000. At the start of the war, the army needed about 20,000 armored Humvees, of which it had very few. That would have cost $3,000,000,000 to procure.
As of today, CNN reports
Lt. Gen. R. Steven Whitcomb, commander of the 3rd Army said 22,000 of 30,000 vehicles in Iraq, Afghanistan and other Central Command bases have additional armor. Of those vehicles, 6,000 are factory retrofitted Humvees -- 2,100 short of the military's goal. About another 10,000 Humvees have been outfitted with add-on kits.
Lets look at some of Sec. Rumsfeld's statements:
1. "And it’s essentially a matter of physics. It isn’t a matter of money. It isn’t a matter on the part of the Army of desire. It’s a matter of production and capability of doing it."
Is he saying the greatest economic and military power in the world hasn't been able to slap some armour on some trucks since they started planning this war in January 2001? Horseshit.
The US ramped up aircraft production from 2,100 in 1939 to 85,900 in 1943. They could do this, from a much smaller industrial base then today, because the political willpower was there. Don't tell me that we couldn't produce 20,000 properly armoured vehicles for our troops.
2. "And if you think about it, you can have all the armor in the world on a tank and a tank can be blown up. And you can have an up-armored humvee and it can be blown up."
Technically true, but why the hell say that to a room full of soldiers driving your crappy humvees?
While technically true, who cares! they sure do a lot better then canvas. Up armored vehicles can:
stop armor-piercing 7.62-millimeter rounds, provide protection from the blast of a 155- millimeter shell exploding overhead and could withstand a 12- pound mine detonation under the front axle.
3. "It isn’t a matter of money."
Again, crap. First, the Bush Admin's original budget for 2005 had $0 for armour kits, and funding for 818 up-armoured vehicles. This funding has been sorted out, but shows the level of importance they put on providing armoured vehicles.
Second, don't tell me that if the US government put out an attractive enough bid for armoured Humvees, that someone, somewhere wouldn't make them. It ain't rocket science.
Third, look at the evidence. Since this town hall meeting, Armour Holding Inc has agreed to boost production of armored Humvee's by over 20%.
In today’s Washington Post, Bradley Graham writes that “sometime this autumn” Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld will activate a key component of our National Missile Defense - an interceptor system in Alaska. (Interceptor System Set, But Doubts Remain)
In the article Mr. Graham says, “President Bush already has begun to claim fulfillment of a 2000 presidential campaign pledge -- and longtime Republican Party goal -- to build a nationwide missile defense.”
How about that? What I thought was a non-functioning boondoggle is actually a nationwide missile defense system. (I’ll cut Bush some slack because that was not a direct quote - I would be interested if anyone sees a quote where Bush says that we have an operational national missile defense system).
The article details some of the major problems with the national missile defense program (which is now looking like it will cost more than $100 billion). The interesting part for me was reading about the non-technical problems. It seems the debate in the Pentagon is not about whether or not the system works – there is almost universal acknowledgement that the current system would not work – the debate is about whether we should go live with a system that we know does not work. It all comes down to politics.
In a passage that is eerily similar to his analysis of the Iraq situation, Secretary Rumsfeld is quoted as saying we should go ahead with the current system,
"Did we have perfection with our first airplane, our first rifle, our first ship? I mean, they'd still be testing at Kitty Hawk, for God's sake, if you wanted perfection."
The Daily Show calls this the “Ziggy Doctrine” (Headlines: Mess O’ Potamia). Nothing’s perfect.
Fred Kaplan at Slate has written a number of articles about National Missile Defense over the past few years. His article from Friday (Missile Defense: Mission Unaccomplished) is worth reading. I hope the November victor will improve homeland security by reducing the budget for NMD and investing in other technologies.
The technology works by a video camera recording the scene behind you, and projecting that image on to your front, and vice versa.
This one has captured my imagination now for a while. There is a group at MIT working on this, someone was telling me they were working on this research a year ago. I wonder what commercial spinoffs this technology would have. I wonder what kind of policy issues this would result in?
We have No Cell phone zones now, no cloak zones? In our "age of terrorism" do we really want invisible cloaks? Seems like this would make assassinations and terrorist activities way easier. Although this stuff will be controlled by the government for a long time I assume.
Mosaic of George Bush made from photos of fallen soldiers in Iraq.
This incredibly powerful image was released Sunday at the AmLeft Blog.
I post it because:
its an example of a very powerful message that could only come from the grass roots. Centralized, corporate media could not, and would not create this.
its a vivid reminder that the President had to weigh many touch decisions before going to war. This is a form of artistic protest reminding us of the terrible costs we've paid so far in this war and where the buck ultimately stops.
I don't know if Kara is out there but I found her presentation on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in ESD.80 pretty interesting. Kara focused on the commercial uses of UAVs and discussed the barriers to wide spread commercial use.
Today there is an article in Wired News about the proposed combat uses of UAVs (renamed UCAVs - the C is for combat).
From the article:
Drones have quickly become a central part of U.S. military efforts because they can hover over a combat zone for hours on end. A flesh-and-blood pilot poops out after about 10 hours; some robotic planes can stay aloft for more than three times that long.
In Pentagon-ese, this is known as "persistence." The Defense Department would like to shift from persistent surveillance -- which the drones are now starting to provide -- to an always-on ability to kill, should an adversary pop up in a pilotless plane's sights.
Pretty crazy stuff. The military implications of risking even fewer soldiers on bombing runs are pretty intense. Can you imagine sending a few hundred drones to Afghanistan to hover over bin Laden's likely hiding places? The drone could stay there for a few months, running on solar cells, waiting for bin Laden to peak out of the hole.
The article is ominously titled the "Revenge of the Killer Drones" and talks a bit about the potential implications of autonomous drones. It sounds like there is some disagreement within the military about autonomy.