Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Years!

Here's to wishing everyone a Happy New Years!

And if you don't quite remember what's happened over the past year, the Jib Jab 2008 Year in Review is a great start...

Monday, December 29, 2008

John Isaacs on Obama Admin Personnel and Nuclear Policies

The Center's Executive Director, John Isaacs, has a great update on incoming Obama Administration personnel and the implications on the direction of his nuclear policies, included below.

People looking for clues about the nuclear policies of the incoming Obama Administration tended to draw overly-broad implications from the big-dog appointments announced a few weeks ago: Sen. Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, Robert Gates continuing as Secretary of Defense and General Jim Jones as National Security Advisor.

It is the next level of appointments that will tell us more about the direction of Obama's nuclear policies.

While you were away (or still are) celebrating the holidays, the first key appointments below the cabinet-level have been made and the news is good.

Take the announcement of Dr. John Holdren as the President's Science Adviser. Holdren is a leading expert on nuclear arms issues.

A 1997 he chaired a National Academy of Sciences report entitled “The Future of Nuclear Weapons Policy” that recommended reducing U.S. and Russian nuclear forces to 1,000 total warheads and exploring going below that number, taking nuclear weapons off hair trigger alert and adopting a no-first use policy.

In a 2005 Arms Control Today article, Dr. Holdren argued that the 1997 proposals were still relevant and recommended ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, moving to very deep reductions of nuclear weapons to a few hundred on each side, and trying "create the conditions that would make possible a global prohibition of nuclear weapons along the lines of those already in force against chemical and biological weapons."

James B. Steinberg, who has served in other government positions, has been named to the number two position at the Department of State. He too has long been involved in nuclear issues.

On January 1, 2008, he wrote "Washington must begin devaluing nuclear weapons."

In a November 2007 speech, he praised the Kissinger, Shultz, Perry and Nunn proposal for a world free of nuclear weapons and applauded some of their endorsed steps, including ratification of the test ban treaty, a fissile material cut-off treaty and a reopened debate on missile defenses.

In a 2006 OpEd, he suggested that the U.S.-India deal "will seriously undermine the longer-term effort to rein in the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons programs."

Antony Blinken, most recently staff director of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has been named Vice President-elect Joseph Biden's Assistant to the Vice President for National Security Affairs.

Blinken joined with Steinberg -- and a number of other authors who could well be appointed to key Obama Administration positions -- in a July 2008 Center for New American Security report that recommended: "The next president should reaffirm that America seeks a world free of nuclear weapons."

The report suggested a number of steps in that direction, including:

"The United States should propose to Moscow new negotiations that would reduce their respective nuclear inventory to 1,000 weapons of all ranges. The inspection and transparency provisions of existing arms control agreements that are due to expire in 2009 would be maintained. And remaining forces would end their reliance on hair-trigger alerts to ensure survivability. In addition, the United States should ratify the CTBT at the earliest practical opportunity and propose to negotiate a worldwide, verifiable ban on the production of fissile materials for weapons purposes."

While there are many other key appointments to be made, these first appointments are a good start and presage significant progress on nuclear issues.

Click here for the full list of open key positions, including transition personnel.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Consensus from 60 Experts on Arms Control Priorities for Obama Admin.

We all know that when President-elect Obama is sworn into office on January 20, 2009, the list of issues vying for his time will be extensive. From the economy to Iraq to energy to loose nukes, he is going to face one of the – if not the – most challenging set of problems any incoming administration has faced in U.S. history. This is already a given. What's not, however, is exactly which priorities will top his agenda from day one.

To that end, the Center just released a report that identifies key recommendations for how the Obama Administration can address what every presidential candidate since 2000 has said is the gravest threat to international security: the spread of nuclear weapons and materials.

The report is the result of six meetings with 60 leading national security experts from backgrounds as diverse as think tanks, foundations, academia, advocacy, and Congress, which were co-chaired by the Center's chairman, Lt. Gen. Robert Gard (USA, ret.) and the chairman, Sen. Gary Hart (ret.), of its sister organization, Council for a Livable World.

The "clear consensus" of the group on the top three nuclear non-proliferation priorities for the incoming administration were to:

  • Provide a new direction on nuclear weapons policy, emphasizing "minimum deterrence," extension of START, and negotiations for further reductions with Russia
  • Secure all vulnerable fissile material in four years to reduce the risk of nuclear terrorism
  • And ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty
In addition, the group outlined a second tier set of priorities that included:
  • Negotiations with Iran without preconditions
  • Re-committing to promises made at the 1995 NPT entension
  • Conditioning further deployment of the third missile defense site on proven tests
  • And restructuring government to deal at a higher level with arms control
Find this clear, direct discussion of concrete and vital arms control priorities in its entirety on the Center's website. Find the executive summary and list of participants here.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

ACA's Nominations for the 2008 "Arms Control Person of the Year"

The past year has had its ups and downs, and in this business you have to maintain an optimistic outlook. So, to help accentuate the positive, the staff of the Arms Control Association have nominated people and institutions for the 2008 "Arms Control Person of the Year."

Last year's winners were Representatives Peter Visclosky (D-Ind.) and David Hobson (R-Ohio) for leading the House of Representatives and Congress to zero out funding for the controversial Reliable Replacement Warhead program.

For 2008, there are a number of repeat nominees as well as new additions to the list.

Click here to vote (just one vote, please) or suggest another candidate worthy of mention and why.

And the nominees are...

Jonas Gahr Støre, Foreign Minister of Norway for spearheading his government's initiative to bring states together to negotiate the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which bans existing types of these weapons and was signed by 94 countries in December.

Former Secretaries of State George Shultz, Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of Defense Bill Perry, and former Sen. Sam Nunn for their catalytic January 2007 and 2008 op-eds in The Wall Street Journal calling for renewed U.S. leadership on practical steps "toward a world free of nuclear weapons."

Christopher Hill, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, for persistently maintaining a difficult dialogue with North Korea on steps leading to its eventual denuclearization, potentially preventing the resumption of its plutonium production for nuclear weapons.

General Secretary Randall Howard of the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU) who declared that its port members would not unload a Chinese cargo ship loaded with weapons supplies destined for the Mugabe government in Zimbabwe for fear that the weapons would contribute to internal repression in Zimbabwe. SATAWU instead called for the ship to return to China with the arms onboard and for a peaceful solution to be sought to the political instability in Zimbabwe.

Thomas Fingar, Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Analysis and Chairman, National Intelligence Council (May 2005 - November 2008) for improving information sharing between intelligence agencies and helping to re-establish integrity and objectivity to the analytical process. The November 2007 National Intelligence Estimate on Iran, produced under his supervision, proved pivotal in reframing the conversation about Iran's nuclear program and timeframe for nonmilitary measures.

Representatives Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.) and Senators Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), and Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) for standing up for the principles of the nuclear nonproliferation regime and for offering amendments that would have addressed some of the deep flaws in the U.S.-Indian nuclear cooperation agreement.

The legislators of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, for completing the ratification process for the Central Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free-Zone (CANFWZ) in 2007 and 2008. The CANFWZ is the world's fifth such zone free of nuclear weapons, and the first to require its members to adhere to the IAEA Additional Protocol, the Comprehensive Nuclear Text Ban Treaty, and the Convention for the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material.

Desmond Tutu and other members of The Elders, including Jimmy Carter, who continue to speak out about humanitarian crises fueled by arms and recently supported an effort under the Global Zero initiative to set a date for the elimination of all nuclear weapons.

Stuart Levey, Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, for raising international awareness regarding the issue of proliferation financing and leading negotiations with governments, businesses, and financial institutions to warn them of the risks of doing business with suspected proliferators.

The Panel of Experts on the Sudan established pursuant to Security Council resolution 1591 (2005) for monitoring and reporting on violations of the arms embargo against Sudan and recommending in November that the embargo extend to all of Sudan, Chad, and parts of the Central African Republic in order to stem the tide of violence ongoing in Darfur.

Former U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, in collaboration with Thai authorities, for their role in the March apprehension of notorious arms dealer Viktor Bout, preventing the sale of arms to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and potentially other war torn regions around the world.

Lt. Gen Robert Gard: Right Wing Fear Machine

The Huffington Post published today an excellent piece by the Center’s chairman, Lt. Gen. Robert Gard, that responds to some bombastic missile defense claims (no pun intended) made by the Heritage Foundation. Full text below.

The younger and more internet-savvy members of our staff showed me a new video clip last week entitled "33 Minutes." It comes courtesy of the unabashed hawks at the right-wing Heritage Foundation. The title refers to the amount of time it would take an intercontinental ballistic missile or 'ICBM' to reach the United States. Apparently the clip is merely a preview of a longer movie set to be released in February 2009.

Watch it for yourself, but you might want to put the kids to bed first.

Kudos to Heritage for catching the typo they included in the YouTube version at 1:54 - "Balliatic"? - and correcting it on their website. Sadly they forgot to iron out other mistakes of a more substantive nature. I'll leave the mockery to others and stick to three main points.

First, Heritage commits the ultimate faux pas in national security analysis: It proposes a solution that doesn't achieve their primary objective. Robert Joseph, a committed arms racer and intellectual heir to John Bolton, says early on in the video that "my number one concern today is a terrorist with a nuclear weapon." A legitimate fear, to be sure, especially when you consider that the final report of the bipartisan Commission on the Prevention of WMD Proliferation and Terrorism predicted that such an attack will "more likely than not" occur somewhere in the world by 2013.

The problem, of course, is that missile defense won't stop nuclear terrorism. How exactly will missile defense interceptors in Europe stop a terrorist with a small nuclear explosive device from entering the United States through Canada? Or prevent a shielded nuclear device, invisible to cargo detectors, from being smuggled into a U.S. port aboard a ship? Missile defense, obviously, is useless against these kinds of terrorist attacks.

Second, Heritage is guilty of fear-mongering without supplying the appropriate facts and context. That is the height of irresponsibility. The video begins by stating that over 20 countries have a ballistic missile capability. Yet, as arms control expert Joseph Cirincione pointed out at a congressional hearing on missile defense earlier this year, nearly all countries that possess ballistic missiles today are allies of the United States and possess only short-range missiles that threaten their neighbors, not the American homeland.

Lt. Gen. Henry Obering raises the specter of the United States only having 33 minutes to respond if Iran or North Korea launches an ICBM at us. Unfortunately, this frightening scenario becomes not quite so scary when you remember that neither country currently possesses a missile proven to be capable of hitting the continental United States. Though U.S. intelligence assessments have concluded that North Korea and Iran could develop such an ICBM several years in the future, deploying an unproved and unworkable missile defense system is not the way to change these states' behavior in the meantime. Currently deployed long-range missile defense systems remain an answer in search of a problem.

Third, Heritage praises missile defense for things it can't yet do. The reason for this boosterism is simple: missile defense is a theology, not a technology, for many conservatives. Gen. Obering claims that missile defense technology is so advanced that "we now are able to hit a spot on the bullet with a bullet." Later in the video, however, Kim Holmes confesses that "we do not have enough capability right now to do what we need to do." Well, which is it guys? Does the system work or doesn't it?

In the past nine years, the ground-based midcourse missile defense system has made eight successful intercepts out of thirteen tests. Because the system is still in the developmental phase, all of these tests have been highly scripted - including the "successful" test on December 5. They do not represent what might happen were a missile actually to be launched at the United States. That's why the Government Accountability Office concluded in February 2008 that tests completed to date "are developmental in nature and do not provide sufficient realism" to determine whether the system "is suitable and effective for battle." Our missile defense system still cannot neutralize a missile threat that employs even relatively simple decoys that could be developed by any country able to build complex, long-range, nuclear-tipped missiles.

Robert Joseph opens the video with a cheap shot at President-elect Barack Obama. "Hope is not a good foundation for a national security strategy," Joseph sneers. I'm sure Joseph would point to President Ronald Reagan, patron saint of the Heritage Foundation, as the model for a strong national leader.

What's funny is that in one of the most famous speeches of his administration, Reagan talked about something that offered "hope for our children in the 21st century" and "hope for the future" and "a vision of the future which offers hope." Know which speech it was?

It was Reagan's address to the nation introducing the Strategic Defense Initiative or 'Star Wars,' his flagship missile defense program.


Diplomacy, deterrence, and containment have been and will continue to be far more effective than missile defense as protection against a ballistic missile threat to the United States. One should keep that in mind when the Heritage Foundation's movie accompanies a full court press for more money to field an unworkable missile defense system in 2009.