Saturday, February 19, 2005

Strategic Analysis

The question has been asked a lot over the past few years, "Can terrorists build nuclear weapons"?

My thought: not only can they, they are in process now.

Honestly the only difficult part of the process is obtaining fissile materiel, and with the Pakistani program, the Iranian program, the north Korean program, and the various Russian pograms that fell apart, I'm not so sure how difficult that may be.

I'm most directly worried about joint projects between states and terrorists.

Presently the nuclear club looks something like this

  1. U.S.A
  2. Russia
  3. Ukraine
  4. Georgia
  5. Great Britain
  6. France
  7. China
  8. India
  9. Pakistan
  10. Israel
  11. Other former soviet republics(maybe)
  12. Iran (maybe)
  13. North Korea(maybe)
So we've got 13 or thereabouts, actually probably more if, as we suspect, several of the former soviet republics held on to more than they admit to. We're pretty sure Kazakstan and Azerbaijan held on to or grabbed up at least a few nukes, and we're pretty sure the Balkans didn't, but everything else is pretty much a tossup.

Now look at that list, and see how many of them are actively hostile to the U.S., or are so currupt that their co-operation could be purchased.

More in the extended entry ...

Taking the full list of former soviet states as one, I count at least 8 hostile or corrupt foreign powers that have nuclear capability, and either hostile intent, or the will to sell to our enemies. We thoroughly bribe the Russians, and the former soviet states not to do so, but it only takes one or two loose nukes to bring a nightmare of hellfire down upon this country.

Melodramatic? No, not even close. Unless you've been through the training and the simulations and the scientific literature it can be hard to comprehend the kind of nastiness we are talking about here.

Not only that, but the emotional scar on this country. Would we ever feel safe again? We were able to get going again very quickly after 9/11. Within a few weeks things were, if not back to normal, at least up and running. A nuke is, psychologically and emotionally, a different order of magnitude of trauma. Our economy would nosedive, and the world would follow with us. Even more so if the targets were New York and/or Washington D.C., which would seem to be the most likely. Our society would move into a semi-collapse as people started hoarding, and becoming paranoid.

I'm not saying we wouldnt recover, but it would take time, and possibly the imposition of martial law in some areas (the depressed areas where the populace is on the edge of riot much of the time anyway, and the urban areas nearest to the attacks).

Why am I worried about state sponsored terrosim?

Let's talk about China jsut for a start. Specifically let's talk about intentions vs capabilities.

I think China is very very dangerous to their neighbors, and by extension to us (and the editorial board at parameters, and other professional strategic situation watchers agree). When China starts to really implode there are two possible results.

1. The commie fuckers at the top realize what's happening before it's too late, and they start an aggressive expansionist war.
2. The commie fuckers get strung up, shot, burned, drawn, and quartered by the irate populous and then who the hell knows what happens.

Personally, I'm hoping or 2, but I'm planning for 1.

The dichotomy here arises between intentions and capabilities.

There are four possible situations vis a vis intentions and capabilities:

1. The enemies intentions are benign, and their capabilities do not allow for their accomplishment
2. The enemies intentions are benign, and their capabilities allow for their accomplishment
3. The enemies intentions are hostile, and their capabilities do not allow for their accomplishment
4. The enemies intentions are hostile and their capabilities allow for their accomplishment

We spent most of the last 60 years facing down a situation 1, while thinking it was a situation 2 with the Soviets (referring to the purely military war not the political one). This is actually one of the safer possible situations, because in this case neither party wishes to act. The stronger party believes they are at rough parity, and the weaker party has every incentive not to move to a situation 3, and to keep the stronger party believing in the weakers false strength.

China is right now in situation 1 (occasionally tipping into a weak 3), trying very hard to move to situation 2. If they ever reach two there is a good chance they will jump to 4 right away. If they have a major internal incident they will jump to a strong 3 right away. Either sit 3, or sit 4, are incredibly dangerous and undesirable states. China represents one of the cases where 3 may be more dangerous than 4 (as does Korea). A state in sit 4 is at least generally predictable, and rational, an enemy in sit 3 is neither. Actually enemies in sit 4, often quickly revert to sit 2 when they secure their objectives. Since by definition state 3 enemies cannot achieve their objectives through normal means they become INCREDIBLY dangerous.

Saddam Hussein was clearly a situation 3, trying to become a situation 4. He had to be removed before he achieved situation 4.

I believe Iran is now in a situation 3, and is very clearly attempting to become a situation 4, and will have to be dealt with accordingly.

North Korea worries me, because Kim Jong Il is clearly insane. He's in a situation 3 and what worries me most is what he's going to do when he finds out he is dying, or losing control of the country. It's similar to the outcomes above for China, only worse because the Chinese still have some rationality left.

In light of this, we must prepare for both our enemies intentions, and their capabilities. Our enemies may not have the capabilities to strike us directly with nuclear weapons, but the possiblity iexists, and is not remote, so we must prepare for it.