It’s “Bibi” time again.

Cnn-large Natanyahu takes office today with his cabinet of extreme nationalists, religious parties and a variety of other "friends of AIPAC." 

What can be expected from this cast of characters?

– An endless evasiveness on the subject of a state for the Palestinians.  Bibi and co. will instead try to sell them on the idea of a comfortble life as serfs, helots or whatever term one prefers.

– An effort to strike a clearly unequal bargain with Syria.  The deal must be seen by the Likudniks as unbalanced and in Israel's favor or they will not feel good about themselves.  After all, if you are not screwing your "enemies," then who are you?  This is a very Middle Eastern attitude, a place where a game that is not a zero sum game is thougt to be a defective game.

– An endless hostility toward Iran.  An Iran that fulfills the need for enemies, enemies that can be defeated and frustrated as a kind of memorial to bygone enemies.  Bibi's government will lean toward a unilateral first strike on Iran if the USA can not be maneuvered into doing the "business."

– the Iran "issue" will probably be the proximate cause of the confrontation between Bibidom and the Obama White House that I have been expecting.  Bibi has let it be known that he will not "tolerate" an American effort toward an "opening" with Iran.  Bibi thinks the United States is a sort of "cash cow" to be manipulated by clever people like him.  He, Avigdor Lieberman, et al will seek to bully and dominate the US using propagandists in the media, propagandists from captive think tanks, friendly media outlets and servile members of Congress.  In the end, a personal confrontation involving President Obama himself is an inevitability.  Then we will see…  pl

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50 Responses to It’s “Bibi” time again.

  1. Highlander says:

    What exactly do you expect to see Colonel?
    Obama is a complete creation of the American Jewish politcal establishment. Starting from his financing, to political operatives, to media opeations, to lobbyist connections, to the “Wall Street Gang”.
    On election night at a celebration in Chicago one very prominent Jewish politcal financier jubilantly proclaimed that,”Obama was the first Jewish President”.
    As I’ve said before, Obama will do a little anti Israel Kabuki theater from time to time. Just to keep the far lefty “schmucks” in line. But at the end of the day it will be Israel all the way. You really think he has a real choice?
    I suspect that “Bibi” holds one hell of a lot more trump cards than you would like to acknowledge.
    Face it! You antizionists have been had once again.

  2. Leanderthal says:

    Col. Lang,
    Thanks for saying what needs to be said. We need you, and others like you who have the essential and necessary supporting credentials, to make this case.

  3. Mike Martin, Yorktown, VA says:

    No doubt he will come with a repeated demand for the freedom of Pollard, Franklin, etc, and OBTW, how much longer will it take the United States to realize that the USS Liberty was an unfortunate misunderstanding.

  4. par4 says:

    Bibi will lose that confrontation.

  5. Patrick Lang says:

    That’s what I want to see. I want to know whether or not you are right. pl

  6. David Habakkuk says:

    You say that with Obama ‘at the end of the day, it will be Israel all the way’?
    Do you think Obama himself has any real belief in the Zionist cause?
    Do you think he believes that unquestioning support for Israel is in the interest of his own country, the United States of America?

  7. Mike Martin, Yorktown, VA says:

    Any conjecture on Rahm Emmanuel’s role wrt how Obama will deal w/ Netanyahu?

  8. Cieran says:

    But at the end of the day it will be Israel all the way. You really think he has a real choice?
    He certainly has a choice, by virtue of the fact that he was elected by citizens of the U.S., not those of a foreign nation. If economic times were good, he could afford to keep Bibi happy, but times are not good, so…
    I agree with the Colonel here — we do not yet know what choices the Obama administration will make, and therein lies the interest. The electoral picture in America is changing rapidly, and if Obama has to choose between dealing with emerging populist rage in the U.S. and dealing with silly Bibi tricks in Israel, we’ll quickly see just how good of a politician he is.
    The question I wonder about is this: have Israeli politicians figured out how rapidly the electoral map is changing in the U.S.? Are they operating from a set of assumptions that is no longer an accurate measure of the mood of the U.S. voter?

  9. Cato the Censor says:

    I sincerely hope that President Obama is canny enough not to be taken by a thug like Netanyahu.

  10. Patrick Lang says:

    My only interest in zionism is the obvious success it has had in manipulating US policy. pl

  11. J says:

    If President Obama will only continue to keep trash like former Mossad head Uzi Arad from entering our U.S. at least that will be one positive start (Arad has been shown to have been involved in several hostile Israeli espionage operations against the U.S.).

  12. zanzibar says:

    As Pat stated it is to be seen how Obama handles himself when the inevitable confrontation with Bibi arises?
    Yes, the wait and see. But if his complete capitulation to the Wall Street Finance lobby to the detriment of working Americans is an indicator he may buckle easily to the Israel First lobby as was seen with the Chas Freeman case. We will likely have the kabuki of rhetoric as we have seen with the excess compensation distraction while the American taxpayer is being robbed blind.
    David – we may be making an error in assuming that Obama like Bush/Cheney before him places the interest of his country before his own personal interest? The lure of massive wealth and celebrity may be hard to resist.
    Cieran – yes he does have a choice but will he choose the side of the citizens that elected him or those that he perceives are the real “movers & shakers” – the political and financial elite. We saw how Congress voted on the non-binding resolutions during Cast Lead. We have seen the effectiveness of information operations over the short term. What is your perception of the mood of the US voter?
    I have reached the point that I am skeptical that Obama will guide policy in the best interests of our country. I hope however that it is just unfounded cynicism.

  13. Bill Wade, NH, USA says:

    If it turns out that President Obama does not do Bibi’s bidding, we can then breathe a sigh of relief that Obama is his own man. But, if the opposite happens, then what?

  14. Arbogast says:

    Key quote:
    Bibi thinks the United States is a sort of “cash cow” to be manipulated by clever people like him.
    What is the connection between the bailout of large “banks” and Israel?
    Nothing? Independent events?
    Just remember that Henry Kissinger said that Maurice Greenberg, the head of AIG, was the most honorable man he had ever met.

  15. frank durkee says:

    What does anyone here make of “Bibi’s’ threat in an interview today to act against Iran’s atomic project, if we can not contain it?

  16. johnf says:

    >Any conjecture on Rahm Emmanuel’s role wrt how Obama will deal w/ Netanyahu?
    I remember reading a few months ago – but can’t remember where now – that Emmanuel and Netanyahu had a serious run in while Clinton was president and Bibi came off worst. Bill Clinton certainly had no time for Netanyahu. Neither, one suspects, does his wife.

  17. Leanderthal says:

    Goldberg of The Atlantic confirmed your prediction.
    That didn’t take long.

  18. Patrick Lang says:

    I suppose I qualify to give an opinion.
    The Israelis can strike Iran with the Jericho 2 and/or 3 with either conventional or nuclear weapons.
    My military friends think eiher is possible. The conventional warheads would be intended to make a US second strike necessary. pl

  19. Cieran says:

    Good comments, as always. As far as this:
    What is your perception of the mood of the US voter?
    The only characterization I would assert on that topic with any degree of certainty would be that said mood is volatile, and more mutable than I have ever seen.
    Given that, I would suggest that if Bibi wants to start causing more trouble in the middle east, he might want to check his assumptions about the mood of the U.S. voter, because the “special relationship” between the U.S. and Israel was calibrated during the last administration, and the world has shifted quite a bit since then.

  20. batondor says:

    There is something tragically ironic in my reading on this subject today:
    First, your contribution with which I largely concur…
    Followed by Uri Avnery’s piece on the same subject that echo’s your own views in somewhat more sarcastic terms through the eyes of someone with a bit more at stake:
    Then moments ago, thoroughly depressed by the uncertainties laden with doubt to which you and your posters point, I found this somewhat encouraging account in Haaretz that suggests that Obama’s own advisors on the subject have put a plan on the table for him to put before Bibi that the new PM will find difficult to even have on his plate, not to mention swallow with a smile:
    But finally, it fades in the hasty, nasty, and presumptuous glare of Bibi himself:
    Is Bibi’s haste an indication that he knows where Obama is headed and he’s trying to beat him to the punch? Something like “Eliminate the possibility that Iran might obtain a nuclear capability and then we’ll talk about the Palestinians?”.
    All I will add is that I hope Obama preempts Bibi’s full court press in May when he seems to hope to come to the US, stir up the troops, and then prance into the WH to give Mr. Obama his marching orders:
    I frankly do not agree that Israel can seriously consider a unilateral first strike against Iran as viable, but doing so forces me to prove the unprovable negative. I just read your comment on the capability that Israel retains with its Jerichos, etc. and do not doubt the accuracy of the assessment…
    … but I also presume that this generation knows the unspoken downside of the Six Day War and its aftermath: Israel’s military leaders thought that they would neutralize Egypt for twenty years, only to be surprised in a most shocking manner within six!
    On the other hand, Avnery’s argument seems confirmed that Bibi has positioned himself at the absurd center between his Right wing and Left wing ultra-nationalists that leaves him with only one real weakness: a loss of support from the United States.
    My hope, frankly, is that the President will not appreciate Bibi’s haughty behavior one bit…

  21. Jackie Shaw says:

    When I read Bibi’s remarks earlier, your sentiment was what I was hoping.
    “My hope, frankly, is that the President will not appreciate Bibi’s haughty behavior one bit…”
    I hope someone gives Bibi enough rope.

  22. Andy says:

    My prediction: We won’t see Obama seriously challenge the status quo with Israel for a couple of years at least. Here’s why:
    Consider the President’s position and all the critical priorities he must address, the economy being number one. His political capital isn’t infinite, so he must concentrate on the most critical tasks.
    As head of a new government Bibi is not likely to compromise on many issues, so President Obama must consider what is realistically achievable. In my judgment, confronting Bibi at this point in time would accomplish little while being politically costly and distracting from more pressing aspects of the President’s agenda. My sense is that Israel is a pretty low priority for the American people at the moment. Therefore I think Israel will go on the back burner as long as the economy is in crisis. Any movements on Israeli policy with be minor and/or at the margins.
    Depending on how long domestic issues remain the priority, significant changes in policy regarding Israel may stay on that back burner until after the next election. I actually think that’s likely since election season in the US over a year long now and the economic crisis will last 2-3 years at least.
    So, if policy toward Israel does not change, I think it would be a mistake to make the assumption that President Obama either caved to or was bought by Israeli interests. It could just as easily be timing, the precedence of more pressing issues, and a low or negative cost-benefit ratio.
    The wildcard in all this, of course, is any move by Israel to unilaterally attack Iran.

  23. frank durkee says:

    Given the reports that Cheney was downplaying Obama’s capacities to be an effective leader to Bibi and others in Isreal; is there a significant chance that this is a coordinated effort tobox the president in?

  24. graywolf says:

    If Netanyahu can blow up Iran’s nuclear program, what’s wrong with that?
    FYI…..Any country whose foreign policy is “death to America” is certainly not our friend.

  25. curious says:

    Bibi’s in tough choice. he can wait until Obama popularity goes down, as it normally would for all president. Then Bibi can push his agenda with whatever murky situation he can stir up. At the very least bibi will have much more leverage when Obama is in tough political situation.
    On the other hand, Israel’s point of attacking Iran diminish over time. (what’s the hurry about attacking Iran a year or two from now? They already said iran would have nuke in late ’08, then Q1 ’09, then again late 09. Bombing Iran in 2011, is a bit dubious in term of political discourse.
    so, this will be triangle dance. Israel-Iran-US.
    Frankly, I think if Iran insist “I don’t know what you two are talking about” until late 2011. The whole thing will cool by itself. israel nuke argument would not make any sense at all to the public, since it would means they have to also argue iran is either not as dangerous as they insist.

  26. china_hand says:

    If the negotiations with Iran over Afghanistan bear tangible fruit, then there will be more than enough “wiggle room” for Obama to spank Bibi — and all of Israel, for that matter — if he so chooses.

  27. Trent says:

    graywolf, Israel lacks the ability to “blow up Iran’s nuclear program.” Israel also lacks the capacity to finish a war against Iraq. As discussed here and elsewhere, the concern is that Bibi could start a war he assumed we would finish. We can’t. We can’t finish a war against Iran while we’re finishing a war in Iraq and finishing/restarting war in Afghanistan. Nor should we want to.
    You seem to discount the possibility that the Likud is playing us like a drum.

  28. Was BIBI born in Israel? I know he spent significant time growing up in the US! So did Golda Meir. But perhaps the Israeli Constitution should be modified to match the US requirement of being born in the country. BIBI learned all the wrong lessons from his American heritage. Funny apparently so did the President of Georgia (not the one in the US).

  29. jr786 says:

    I don’t see the demonization of Iran, not yet anyway. If Senator Lieberman manages to get Netanyahu another speaking engagement from the U.S. Senate podium I’ll start to get worried.
    As unbelievable as it sounds we do have to consider the possibility that Israel will drag us into a civilizational conflict at worst, and a war with Iran at best. Frankly, I don’t think I can support my country under those circumstances. Again, if we enter into a war of Israel’s instigation I have to ask what the responsibilities of citizenship are under those circumstances.
    Seems to me this is the unstated question behind a lot of the posts I see here and elsewhere. I’d like to hear other people’s opinions on this.

  30. Cieran says:

    If Netanyahu can blow up Iran’s nuclear program, what’s wrong with that?
    If you don’t consider “mass murder”, “gross violations of international law”, “eventual destruction of the state of Israel”, “rank cowardice”, and “infinite stupidity” to be wrong, then I guess that approach would be just fine.

  31. rjj says:

    BIBI learned all the wrong lessons from his American heritage. W.R.C.

    You think? He did attend one Mammonite Madrasahs on the Charles.
    Sometime in the 80-90s during the managerial revolution, the churls began referring to Sloan as “MM-East” and Harvard Business School as “MM-West.”

  32. David Habakkuk says:

    Your cynicism may very well be well-founded. And I fully agree about the capitulation to Wall Street.
    But then existing power structures are just that — power structures. And I would not have expected Obama’s term in office to begin with a confrontation with very well-entrenched financial interests, however desirable that might have been.
    As Cieran notes, the political climate is changing very rapidly.
    It was, after all, only a matter of months ago that Wall Street and the City of London were widely regarded as being population by financial geniuses — the full impact of the realisation that the likes of Hank Paulson were bumbling incompetents is only gradually being felt.
    Something similar may be happening in relation to the Middle East.
    What has now become crystal clear is that a peace settlement with Palestinian so-called ‘moderates’ which would allow Israel to maintain control over the whole of Palestine is not on the table. If there were to be a two-state solution, it would require the liquidation of the settlements in the West Bank.
    As a simple point of logic, it follows that the whole project to colonise the West Bank rules out any prospect of peace with the Palestinians, and commits Israel to an indefinite attempt to suppress a large Palestinian population.
    Unless one believes this to be possible, it follows that the American Israeli Lobby, by eliminating any possibility of effective U.S. pressure on Israel, has been building a coffin for the Zionist project.
    Given the demographic trends, it seems to me extraordinarily unlikely that an indefinite attempt by Israel to suppress the Palestinian population holds any prospects of success. Having set out the difficulties a few days ago, John Mearsheimer remarked that he would ‘appreciate it greatly if Israel’s American backers would explain what I am missing here.’ So would I.
    To be blunt, if indeed as Highlander suggests, it is going to be ‘Israel all the way’ with Obama, then it is going it is going to be ‘Israel all the way straight over a cliff’, leading to the inevitable catastrophic collapse of the Zionist project.
    And in this case, one would have to conclude that ‘the American Jewish political establishment’ to which he refers is as utterly lacking in political wisdom as the members of what he calls the ‘Wall Street Gang’ have proven themselves lacking in economic wisdom.
    Perhaps I am not cynical enough, but I suspect that not only as Cieran suggests is the ‘special relationship’ between Israel and the U.S. likely to have less traction with American voters than in the future than it did in the past — but very many American Jews are not in the end going to line up like lemmings behind Israel as it heads over the cliff.

  33. curious says:

    moving quickly…
    (Are they going to slam it hard? If so somebody at state dept. Better start sitting and monitoring Israel tightly. There will be no breathing room. They are going for high pace slam.)
    New Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Wednesday that Israel was not bound by understandings on the creation of a Palestinian state reached at a U.S.-sponsored conference at Annapolis in November 2007.

  34. Redhand says:

    I hardly have inside info, but my sense is that Obama is far from being in thrall to AIPAC and the Israeli lobby, much less Bibi.
    I also think that Bibi’s ascension will mean a benign neglect of Palestinian state “peacemaking” in the region because the Jewish State won’t play along in any meaningful way.
    What I do think will happen is that Israel will be reluctant to use massive force as they just did in Gaza, and that they will chafe at not being able to suck us into attacking Iran, but will never work up the chutzpah to go it alone.
    Because of the economic crisis, I predict stagnation on this issue for at least the first two years of Obama’s presidency, though we’ll see plenty of lip service to “peace” from everyone except Hamas.

  35. zanzibar says:

    Cieran – an astute observation. In your opinion does volatility imply cognitive dissonance or the initial breakdown of trust and confidence in our politics? What is your expectation about how this volatility will manifest itself? It would seem that if there are effective contrary voices that can get out then it is very likely that US voters may become more conscious of the costs of our obsequious relationship with the Israel First lobby.
    David – you have articulated the dilemma extremely well. If the Israel First lobby force Obama to acquiesce to the Greater Israel strategy then they may be “successful” in the short term as they have the military superiority to enforce their land grab but apartheid creates its own instability. Now, I don’t know anything about geopolitical or military strategy – that’s why I congregate here at SST to learn. My expertise is finance. So when I look at the current strategy of the Obama administration I see essentially no difference compared to the Dubya administration. Additionally, I don’t buy the defense of incompetence on the part of Paulson, Bernanke, Geithner, et al. These are very smart people who are working their book. As I have noted before here at SST – Rubin, Summers & Greenspan played an instrumental role in the repeal of Glass-Steagall and the deregulation of credit derivatives and enabled the moral hazard laced financial risk taking. The revolving door – Rubin becomes Chairman of Citi. Greenspan joins PIMCO (now a key player in all the bailout schemes) and Summers was hawking CDOs at DE Shaw. These folks use revisionism to claim a “black swan” – a 100 year flood – when it was predictable and predicted that the credit bubble would burst and our largest financial institutions would become insolvent. Now these same people who were instrumental in creating this financial debacle are in charge of the rescue. And once again they are willing to destroy the credit worthiness of the US and bankrupt the Treasury to “save” their investments. So applying the same analogy it would seem that the Likudniks and the Israel First lobby here in the US are willing to risk falling over the cliff. I would not doubt their hubris.

  36. Cieran says:

    You ask good questions. But in all honesty, I don’t know the answers.
    I do have the sense (like our host, I sift through as much information as I can in the hopes of finding the patterns that might predict the future, but at best in my case, it’s just a sense) that some important movement is afoot.
    But I don’t pretend to know exactly what it is, and frankly, my best guesses are more likely due to my own preconceptions and experiences than they represent any emerging reality.
    Sorry not to be of more help!

  37. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    As to Cieran’s and David’s points, yes backlash/volatility can be expected although the form may be obscure at the moment.
    However, should the mass public connect the dots between the Zionist Lobby activity and our foreign policy disasters (some of which intensify the economic crisis) and etc. one might expect a rising anti-semitism.
    Bibi etal will attempt to use their Christian Zionist phalanx to cut against this. But even the Fundis are only about 10-15 % of the population.
    On the other hand, the US Zionist Lobby and certain Israeli factions may calculate that rising anti-semitism is ok and it actually helps diaspora management. This seems rather suicidal to me but…
    The end of the Zionist project may well be inevitable over the next two or three decades which is why I believe in looking ahead now to a one-state solution something along the lines Rabbi Judah Magnes proposed years ago.
    Looking back we can see that the Zionist maximalists were able to get away with their Biltmore Program of 1942/restatement of the 1897 program partly because of the demographic shift in Historic Palestine in favor of Jews. But the demographic situation will be turning again significantly in favor of the Arab population.

  38. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    Just a technical question or two:
    What would be the expected CEP of the Jericho ballistic missiles?
    What is the expected nuclear yield?
    Would resulting blast overpressures be sufficient to take out Iranian targets? “Hardened” targets? Which targets?

  39. frank durkee says:

    ne partial take on the last two comments [ Cerian etc ] is that what we are watching is the combined impact of a world economic crisis and a new and perhaps different president in the US? the rhythms of the Bush years and the “old” economic order have come apart and we are in a “new” playing field. As the older modus slips away and the new reality is not yet clear reading the tea leaves becomes inherently more difficult for all.

  40. Cieran says:

    Professor Kiracofe:
    Let me try a crack at these questions…
    What is the expected nuclear yield?
    Little is known (or at least, little is unclassified) about specifics of Israeli nuclear weapons designs. It’s virtually certain that they have good implosion nuclear devices, and so it’s highly likely they have improved these to gain boosted single-stage weapons, which can produce yields of a few hundred kilotons, more than enough to cause plenty of destruction.
    Some observers have asserted that Israel also has developed thermonuclear capabilities, but I’d suggest that claim is less believable. Staged weapons require a lot more precision in the associated engineering, and it’s remarkably easy for these designs to fail without the kind of high-quality diagnostics you get from actual testing. Since Israel does not appear to have carried out a thermonuclear testing program, I’d suggest that their biggest weapons are boosted implosion devices, with yield limited as mentioned above.
    Would resulting blast overpressures be sufficient to take out Iranian targets? “Hardened” targets? Which targets?
    First, any military target worth having is likely worth hardening and burying, which leads to the topic of “Hardened Deeply-Buried Targets”, or HDBT’s. Destroying HDBT’s can be difficult with conventional weapons, because many countermeasures exist (e.g., spoofing location, engineering soil deposits, etc.), so conventional weapons require very precise targeting information in order to work effectively.
    Nuclear weapons have certain characteristics (relating to yield and to some blast wave properties) that make them much more effective at destroying HDBT’s, but they have plenty of other problems, ranging from producing lots of fallout, to the fact that we’ve never tested this technology in real-world settings.
    Since the early 1990’s, the U.S. has done its nuclear testing and design on NNSA supercomputers, and the system physics of destroying HDBT’s is almost as complicated as the physics of nuclear weapons, so assertions of utility for nuclear bunker-busters are really a matter of great uncertainty.
    Sometimes I find myself believing that this whole “bomb Iran” charade is little more than an attempt to test new weapons designed to destroy HDBT’s, in the same way that Guernica provided a test bed for new German aerial bombing techniques.
    Hopefully, my periodic paranoia is only paranoia…

  41. TR STone says:

    I keep posting that demographics is the real future history, whether it is in America or anywhere else on this planet. Blowing up mankind is a poor excuse for rational thought.
    I admit I don’t carry around a history of persecution, but gosh-narn-it, this is the 21st century and if humanity wants to the the 22nd century, real rational minds MUST take control of the dialog!

  42. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    Thanks you for your extremely interesting and helpful insights on Israel and the nuclear weapons issue.
    Yes, Guernica…I visualize the Picasso painting of same. The Israeli air force as a modern Condor Legion…apt image… And those clever Lazard company bankers in London tried to buy up the Spanish lead mines during the period.

  43. David Habakkuk says:

    Cieran, Clifford Kiracofe,
    Cieran’s remarks about HBDTs seem to me to point towards a fundamental question.
    Given that precisely the facilities which are liable be hardened in the way described are likely to be key strategic targets, and the difficulties which are liable to be involved in destroying them with conventional weapons, it is hardly surprising that there is interest in the possibility of nuclear ‘bunker-busters’.
    But, in addition to the problems which Cieran describes, in the vast majority — if not necessarily all — of the situations in which such ‘bunker-busters’ might be used, one is facing intractable moral problems which are also intractable problems from a purely realpolitik point of view.
    One has only to consider what the effects on people’s thinking in the Islamic world would be — and also indeed the effects on people’s thinking in much of the non-Islamic world — if the first time a nuclear weapon was used in anger since 1945 was on an Iranian HBDT, be it by Israelis or Americans.
    In practical terms then, focusing on such ‘bunker-busters’ may give strategic planners an unimplementable option — and prevent people from looking at alternative ways to deal with the problem (which might, or might not, involve recognising that in a given case there is no feasible way of destroying the targets.)
    And one perhaps comes back to a point which was made by George Kennan, in his January 1950 memorandum on The International Control of Atomic Energy. A crucial question, he noted, was whether one sees any use for nuclear weapons other than ‘as a deterrent to the use of similar weapons against ourselves or our allies and as a possible means of retaliation in case they are used?’
    The problem that Kennan faced at the time was that he could not show how, within the constraints imposed by its political system, the United States could match Soviet conventional power on its own terms.
    However, by the late 1980s, the balance of conventional advantage was quite clearly moving decisively in favour of the United States. When I and a colleague were making programmes for the BBC on the Soviet ‘new thinking’ at the end of 1988, the principal British Army Sovietologist, Chris Donnelly, was blunt about the implications of the application of information technology to weaponry.
    If the West were to develop weapons based on new technology, he suggested, ‘the Russians would have the biggest collection of military antiques at the turn of the century that the world has ever seen.’ In fact, the revolutions in weaponry associated with developments in information technology were by then already giving the United States an indisputable advantage in conventional military power.
    I must admit to being sceptical as to whether there are any sensible uses for such weapons, from an American point of view, other than to deter their use by others. I would be interested in both your views.
    Incidentally, my thanks to Clifford Kiracofe for pointing out some time ago that the whole Foreign Relations of the United States series is now online. A portion of Kennan’s January 1950 memorandum is available in the first of the volumes for 1950, together with a great deal of fascinating discussion.

  44. Cieran says:

    David Habakkuk:
    I believe you are exactly right here, e.g., with this:
    in the vast majority — if not necessarily all — of the situations in which such ‘bunker-busters’ might be used, one is facing intractable moral problems which are also intractable problems from a purely realpolitik point of view
    I also believe it’s important to appreciate that all too often, we humans do not see what is right until we do what is not right, so that the intractable moral problems you mention become obvious only after the all-too-tractable immoral acts have been performed. So in this case, we grasp the moral woes only after we’ve dropped the bombs.
    So my question is this: how can we create a better grade of human behavior, so that we perceive (and prevent) technological abuses (such as nuclear war, but certainly not limited to only that case) well before said abuses are fully realized.
    For example, we’re watching this general problem play out right now in the world of finance, where intractable moral problems are now obvious, but only because we let the immoral forces of greed run loose, without rein, and armed with a bewildering variety of new financial technologies.
    We humans don’t seem to be able to grasp the moral intractability of these problems until after we’ve released them into the world, thus we don’t see the Rubicon until well after we’ve crossed it.
    That’s why I (as an engineer) believe that the solutions to this problem lie not within my professional realm, but in the realm of the humanities. That is, we don’t need smarter bombs or better investment vehicles: we need smarter and better human behaviors, and those aren’t something that can readily be engineered.

  45. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    David Habakkuk,
    It has been about 30 years since I last worked on strat nuke issues so I am foggy to say the least. I am in favor of the ideal of reducing and eliminating nuclear weapons.
    What is the doctrine under which one operates? M.A.D. and various “deterrence” concepts which were oriented toward holding population centers hostage. “War-fghting” sorts of doctrines which suggest targeting a variety of enemy assets?
    Targeting — what is being targeted? Cities and population centers, infrastructure, military targets, etc.? Ethnic groupings? Which targets are more “moral” — cities, military bases, etc.?
    Preemptive first strike/bolt out of the blue scenarios? Does the enemy have a “survivable” second-strike capability so that he can “ride out” the first strike and then launch a second strike of some order of magnitude? Is this second strike capability deterring to a first striker?
    And what sort of post-strike scenarios are there for “recovery’ after absorbing a nuclear strike? Are these “credible”? Does the US event-consequence management of Katrina give any indications to a potential enemy, including UBL?
    I recall talking with an official from South Asia who suggested that as Hindus believe in reincarnation there is a different logic than in the West about the utility of such weapons. Of course, one could argue Muslims don’t mind going to “Paradise”…
    Does what is “rational” vary among human populations? Or say between Aristotelians and Hegelians or whatever else? And what about various concepts of morality?
    During the 1950s there was debate in the US over the moral issue of nuclear weapons use. I believe there was significant discussion in this regard at the US Atomic Energy Commission. Commissioner Thomas E. Murray, Jr., a devout Roman Catholic and son of a partner of Thomas Edison, I understand had moral issues with the use of nuclear weapons. I believe he argued for fractional kiloton weapons and against large throwweight weapons. You could check these debates if they are available from the US archives.
    You will note that the concept for the neutron family of weapons was developed in the 1950s. As I recall, the idea was for something usable on the battlefield against North Korea in a situation where Seoul was too close to the border and in a nuclear war fighting situation might get some effects, etc. The French had a goodly amount of research on neutron weapons I recall.
    I am tending to agree with Col. Lang that the Israeli’s would use nukes against Iran. It may be that collectively the Israelis have reached a state of suicidal or clinically insane behavior. The recent Gaza campaign is an indicator as was the attack on Lebanon. A sort of Masada Complex to which significant factions of the US elite seem to have signed on.
    Having visited Masada I can visualize the image and conclude the Romans were thorough in their approach to the problem…and successful.
    By the way, would you speculate as to the Japanese in say 50 years or so using nukes against the United States…to even the score…San Francisco, Seattle, Denver, whatever?

  46. curious says:

    I think in the long run, nuclear weapon number will go down anyway. It’s too expensive and too complex. And it really doesn’t answer basic and immediate issue of national security need. Will it stop al qaeda attack? or make cheap oil flow? Will it even alter tank battle in eastern europe?
    eg. Once a country has minimum required for deterrence against all of its nuclear rival, it doesn’t makes any difference to add 5 more nukes or 50,000 more nukes.
    It’s more of a show off/political boneheadness problem, not strategic.
    most of major conflict is still about conventional weapons. Nuclear weapons turns out only prevented direct clash, slows down geopolitical strategic planning conversation by about 5 minutes, and doesn’t do a thing about clash by proxy. Increasing in fact.
    Anyway, even if a country doesn’t follow military logic, economic reality will pretty much bring down the party down to reality. Nuclear weapon is very expensive to maintain and keep up. At least in the next 10-15 years, until somebody coming up with toaster laser enrichment gadget.
    then maybe things might change a little. People lobing portable nuke in a car instead of ICBM.

  47. Bill Wade, NH, USA says:

    What Bibi wants, Bibi gets:
    U.S. to lift ban on Bibi aide
    April 1, 2009
    WASHINGTON (JTA) — The United States reportedly will lift its ban on a top aide to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
    Ha’aretz reported Wednesday that Uzi Arad, a former Mossad chief whom Netanyahu plans to make his national security adviser, will get the visa that has been denied him since 2007.
    Arad reportedly was banned because he is referred to in the indictment against Larry Franklin, a former Pentagon Iran analyst who pleaded guilty to relaying classified information.
    Arad has said his two meetings in 2004 with Franklin were innocent and did not involve classified information. According to the indictment, Franklin’s principal Israeli interlocutor was Naor Gilon, the political officer at the Israeli Embassy.
    Franklin’s dealings with Arad are unrelated to his role in a similar case pending against two former staffers for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

  48. curious says:

    oh yeah… sparks is going to fly ..
    The complex dance between the administration vs. Israel operation in DC has begun.
    They were widely reported in 2006, along with allegations that the FBI launched an investigation of Harman that was eventually dropped for a “lack of evidence.”
    What is new is that Harman is said to have been picked up on a court-approved NSA tap directed at alleged Israel covert action operations in Washington.
    And that, contrary to reports that the Harman investigation was dropped for “lack of evidence,” it was Alberto R. Gonzales, President Bush’s top counsel and then attorney general, who intervened to stop the Harman probe.
    Why? Because, according to three top former national security officials, Gonzales wanted Harman to be able to help defend the administration’s warrantless wiretapping program, which was about break in The New York Times and engulf the White House.
    As for there being “no evidence” to support the FBI probe, a source with first-hand knowledge of the wiretaps called that “bull****.”
    “I read those transcripts,” said the source, who like other former national security officials familiar with the transcript discussed it only on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of domestic NSA eavesdropping.

  49. curious says:
    Believe me, America accepts all our decisions,” Lieberman told the Russian daily Moskovskiy Komosolets.
    Now for context I will blockquote the rest of his conversation as he did have other intersting things to say.
    “Russia has a special influence in the Muslim world, and I consider it a strategic partner that should play a key role in the Middle East,”
    I have argued for some time that Israel has insufficient appreciation for the ‘Kremlin factor’; I intend to mend this gap,”
    “Pakistan is nuclear and unstable, and Afghanistan is faced with a potential Taliban takeover, and the combination form a contiguous area of radicalism ruled in the spirit of Bin Laden,”
    I do not think that this makes anyone in China, Russia or the U.S. happy … these countries [Pakistan and Afghanistan] are a threat not only to Israel, but to the global order as a whole.”

  50. I hope he does good in this office, i hope that he won’t let his political ambitions get in the way.

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