Friday, March 2, 2007

Items of Interest

Between writing endless read-aheads, glad-handing foreign military officials or praticing my Japanese in preparation for next week's language exit exam at GWU, I have been pretty busy. Instead of forgetting all of the neat ideas for a blog post that pop into my mind throughout the day, I've taken down to writing brief notes. Here are a few items of interest for my dear readers:

Counterterrorism Policy by Schwarzenegger

Unfortunately, California's governor has not penned his own counterterrorism policy. Yet. A fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution named Thomas Henrikson did in the February/March issue of Policy Review and it looks a lot like something straight out of Commando. His "Security Lessons from the Israeli Trenches" lauds Israel's aggressive, muscular approach to stopping terrorism including some of its more contraversial aspects, such as targeted assassinations, building 'buffer zones' on foreign soil and urban commando raids.

I don't mean to sound like a dove here, but I think the key flaw of Henrikson's thesis is that he measures success by relative body count. His article makes a key error that I think the Israeli security establishment has made since the 1970s, namely the pursuit of short-term survival over ending the attacks in the long-term. Even the Israelis have an excuse for missing this issue because dealing with constant violence along its periphery can be taxing for leaders and bureaucracies.

Henrikson, however, does not have excuse for missing the big picture, which is probably why he is stuck in an Ivory tower for conservative scholars like the Hoover Institution.

Kim Jung Il seyz: "The only thing spinnin' be the rims on my Escalade"

It turns out that the Norks might not have a gas centrifuge-based uranium enrichment program after all. Of course, if you read ArmsControlWonk, you'd know that the Arms Control Association's Paul Kerr was digging up the same info two years ago. This in itself should be nothing new because Kerr has a pretty solid track record for getting inside the mainstream media's OODA loop on nuclear proliferation issues.

Reliable Replacement Warhead contract issued

Yep, its true. One of the most God foresaken politically-driven decisions regarding the critically sensitive area of the U.S. nuclear arsenal is actually going to happen:

The design team from NNSA's Lawrence Livermore and Sandia National Laboratories was selected to develop the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW). NNSA and the national laboratories have determined that this design can be certified without requiring underground nuclear testing.

[Snip]

Teams from NNSA's Lawrence Livermore and Los Alamos National Laboratories partnered with Sandia National Laboratories to submit design proposals to the NWC. In late 2006, the NWC evaluated the proposals and determined that the RRW concept was feasible to sustain the nation's nuclear weapons stockpile.

"Both teams developed brilliant designs," said D'Agostino. "Because of the superior science across the nuclear weapons complex with assets like supercomputers, and the early design engagement with the production facilities, the laboratories were able to develop designs in nine months that were much more mature than they would have been after two years of work during the Cold War. This is an amazing scientific accomplishment that should not be overlooked."

The two nuclear weapons laboratories both submitted designs that fully met all RRW requirements. However, D'Agostino noted that higher confidence in the ability to certify the Livermore design without underground nuclear testing was the primary reason for its selection. That design was more closely tied to previous underground testing. While one of several factors, it was an especially important one to assure long-term confidence in the reliability of the nuclear weapons stockpile.

Several features of the Los Alamos design are highly innovative and will be developed in parallel with the Livermore effort. As they mature, the features may be introduced into the RRW design as it progresses.

Ouch. Talk about a "Dear John" letter for Los Alamos National Laboratories. It originally looked like Congress might buy into two RRWs just to keep both laboratories alive. Then the Bush administration toyed with the idea of a hybrid bomb that would combine technology from Lawrence Livermore's design, which was tested back in the 1980s, and Los Alamos's brand new design. Now it appears that the Bush administration has come to grips with the fact that it can't afford to keep two nuclear weapons laboratories on life support.

The Los Alamos insider's blog LANL: The Corporate Story (successor to LANL: The Real Story) believes that this announcement is the laboratory's death knell. Unless Pete Domineci can defend LANL by slipping a consolation prize into this year's enormous Defense appropriations bill, I think they may be right.

1 comment:

A.E. said...

Counter-terrorism policy in general is becoming too wedded to a sort of action movie aesthetic. I always thought that the perfect fictional representation of counter-terrorism was not "24" but "The Day of the Jackal" and "Battle of Algiers"--two fine films detailing the real complications and moral pitfalls of dealing with terrorism.