Who said “Iran must not have nuclear weapons?”

Middle-East-mapI’d be the first to agree that the world would be a safer place if Iran did not have nuclear weapons, that seems like a “no brainer” to me.  But I’d also be first to recognize that an Iranian might see my “no brainer” as easy to say, coming as I do from a country with a huge stockpile of nuclear weapons.

If I were an Israeli I could easily wish Iran would not develop a nuclear capability.  I don’t know that I could say that I didn’t understand, offensively and defensively, why it might be impelled to develop one.  My own country is “understood” to have nuclear weapons although it does not openly acknowledge that it does.  Whether it does or doesn’t, the fact that it is widely perceived to have them is surely a deterrent against attack from others.  Wouldn’t it still be a deterrent if Iran had nuclear weapons?  If both have them does it fate us (Israel) to a small-scale – but still large and costly –  war with Iran because neither of us wants to confront a nuclear war?

Aren’t nuclear weapons a deterrent to their own use?  As far as I know, there is no nuclear weapon use that can truly be precisely targeted.  Radiation persists, is caught up in wind and water and spreads as nature rather than nations would wish.  Despite some of the regimes that have nuclear weapons being among the least stable in our world, all I’ve been able to read suggests that they behave very responsibly about their weapons.

Once all the “responsible states” (especially those that already have nuclear weapons) begin to say that “Iran must not secure a nuclear weapons capability” are they not setting the stage, within Iran, for an absolute determination to get them?  Pick another powerful state that would respond differently to others telling it what it must and must not do!

The most truth he could tell was a lie and that was not his fault…

james_clapper2James Clapper, director of national intelligence, responded in an open hearing to Senator Ron Wyden’s question about broad-based collection of Americans’ private information by the NSA by saying that no such collection was being done.  Subsequently we learned that wasn’t true and that Clapper knew he would be asked.  Some believe he should be prosecuted for lying to Congress; he has apologized and characterized his response as “the least untruthful” he could make in the circumstances.  Much as I dislike what the NSA is doing and applaud, mutedly since he has a constitutional right to say what he wishes on the Senate floor and has not used it, Senator Wyden’s persistence in pointing to intelligence service activities which run contrary to how I understood the law and constitution to require them to be conducted, I stand with Clapper here.

Clapper told the most truth he could which was a lie!

James Clapper was testifying in a public hearing and was asked a question the truthful answer to which was classified.  He simply could not answer truthfully in that forum.  Senator Wyden’s having notified him in advance  that he would ask it did not relieve him of his responsibility to conceal the classified answer.

Clapper and General Keith Alexander, director of the NSA, have, in my opinion, demonstrated at best a cavalier lack of concern for the civil liberties of their fellow citizens and followed up by aggressively defending themselves rather than giving serious heed to the policy questions raised by the revelations of the agencies’ activities.  I am disappointed in both.  Never the less, I do not wish to give them similar treatment; Clapper in this case ought never have been asked the question and having been asked, he could only answer as he did.

At this time in our history only the most scrupulous judgements will benefit us long-term.  Attempting to “call-out” Clapper served no public interest.

Foreseen: “Unforeseen consequences” of US action against Syria…

If there is something to be expected from a military action against the Syrian regime, even one whose design appears to be so symbolic that only minimal direct damage to the regime will result, it is that there is an extreme range of “unforeseen consequences” that may result and one certain consequence.

While US action is being characterized as not aimed at “regime change” which is a shift after saying Assad had to “go” only a few months ago, clearly any military action is much more than a diplomatic “note” protesting the use of chemical weapons.  It increasingly appears to be a “slap on the hand” with minimal consequences to the regime other than the insult of being struck militarily and possibly set back until the physical damage done can be repaired.

Targets discussed have ranged from the chemical weapons storage facilities themselves (quickly seen to be an extremely bad option in which success could do more damage than the regime has been able to do on its own), “command and control” centers which would to an undetermined extent reduce the regime’s military capabilities, at least temporarily, or aircraft and artillery that could carry chemical payloads in the future.

What is foreseen:  Little is being said of the fact that, whatever messages of whatever “strength” are sent by acting on whatever targets are chosen, there is no chance that the Syrian regime (or its allies) will “take this lying down.”

We are putting the regime and its allies in our situation:  we are crossing a “red line” recognized more universally than any right to act against chemical weapon use by acting militarily against them, not in self-defense but without any provocation on their part against us or our allies.

The regime, with the covert and possibly overt support of its allies, will respond against this.  Nothing in its conduct to date suggests otherwise!  Assad is cornered and too deeply wounded not to strike out to defend himself.  His allies are likely to encourage him in this defense.  

What is unforeseen is which of the many actors including the Syrian regime but not limited to it will respond in which places, times and by which means.  Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Africa, Afghanistan and Pakistan are places where the US is vulnerable to one or more of the regime’s allies.  Of course, the “homeland” could also be vulnerable to some “super 9/11” if the forces are in place for it (and you are more confident than I if you’ve read much lately to make you think we are really “connecting the dots” about terrorist attacks on the US).

Syria’s allies have their own reasons for wishing us ill, they do not have to act against our interests only on the basis of some “mutual defense” treaty; what a US military operation against Syria can provide is the reason for striking us “defensively” without initiating an unprovoked action against us.

 

Ted Koppel in The Wall Street Journal on overreacting to terrorism…somewhere before Tim Graham’s point lies substance

Ted Koppel in The Wall Street Journal on overreacting to terrorism “Terrorism, after all, is designed to produce overreaction,” writes, Koppel, the famed news broadcaster. And with America‘s wide closure of foreign embassies and drone strikes, “It appears to be working.” In particular, the U.S. permanent surveillance state has played directly into Al-Qaeda‘s hands. “We have created an economy of fear, an industry of fear, a national psychology of fear. Al Qaeda could never have achieved that on its own. We have inflicted it on ourselves,” he writes. James Breiner, director of the Global Business Journalism program at Tsinghua University tweets, “Couldn’t agree more w/ Ted Koppel.” But Tim Graham of conservative media watchdog NewsBusters caustically writes “Koppel wants terrorism de-emphasized to the point that it’s seen as less dangerous to America than household ladder accidents.”

Koppel:  http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324653004578650462392053732.html

Atlantic Wire (last item) Five Best Wednesday Columns:  http://www.theatlanticwire.com/national/2013/08/five-best-wednesday-columns/68072/

 

They Know Much More Than You Think by James Bamford | The New York Review of Books

National Security Agency Seal
National Security Agency Seal (Photo credit: DonkeyHotey)

 

“In a recent New York Review blog post, Kenneth Roth, director of Human Rights Watch and a former federal prosecutor, commented that “upon scrutiny” many of the plots referred to by the NSA

 

appear in fact to have been uncovered not because of the mass collection of our metadata but through more traditional surveillance of particular phone numbers or e-mail addresses—the kinds of targeted inquiries that easily would have justified a judicial order allowing review of records kept by communications companies or even monitoring the content of those communications.”

 

They Know Much More Than You Think by James Bamford | The New York Review of Books.

 

James Bamford has written more about the NSA over a longer period than anyone I know.  This piece in the NYRB is worth reading.

 

 

 

Is Snowden an exception? Just think about it in context:

“* An estimated 854,000 people, nearly 1.5 times as many people as live in Washington, D.C., hold top-secret security clearances.”

This is from “Top Secret America,” a Washington Post project done by Dana Priest and William M. Arkin in 2010.  Although out of date, the website for this is still up and may have the best information we have.

http://projects.washingtonpost.com/top-secret-america/ 

If, in 2010, 854,000 people held top secret clearances, even if one allows for many of them never having any “need to know” anything at that level, I wonder how many other “Snowdens” at various levels of the government who do have a “need to know” have shared the secrets entrusted to them with others whose need is much less than the people of the United States.   If only 10%, a percentage I deliberately chose to be low, have a “need to know,” that is 85,400 in 2010.  If 1% of those, a number again chosen to be low, i.e. a low percentage of a low percentage, that would be 854 people in 2010.

What have we learned from all the Snowden coverage about others who may not be sharing information with the public but may be sharing it with others whose interests may not coincide with what we sometimes call “the public’s right to know?” 

 

Just More Outrageous Bi-Partisan Agreement: “CIA nominee John Brennan to face tough questions in Senate” – latimes.com

Just note that the headline might lead you to think he was going to have a rough time being confirmed but that is not what it says, nor what it means.

In effect, it means that (1) a few senators exercised over his not having paid them due deference by reading a report he plans to ignore before meeting with them, (2) a few more concerned about killing citizens abroad without according them their rights and explaining themselves, and (3) a few worried about leaks (not worried about why there aren’t more and why so many resources are applied to finding them unless they favor the administration, but about why there are any that do favor the administration).

And it means he will get through the hearing and confirmation this time despite significant opposition leading to his withdrawing his name from consideration last time for the questions his prior conduct had raised.  Now, after compounding his earlier sins and presumably his rationalization skills, he can expect confirmation.

After all, we all agree that torture and unconstitutional intrusions on individual rights are acceptable, don’t we?

CIA nominee John Brennan to face tough questions in Senate – latimes.com.