October 6, 2007


The old Schell game a review of Jonathan Schell's The Seventh Decade: The New Shape of Nuclear Danger (Victor Davis Hanson, New Criterion)

The war in Iraq looms large in the narrative as morally reprehensible and a strategic blunder. But such castigation immediately must prompt contortions. If the world is to disarm, what are we to do with fanatics like Saddam Hussein and Muammar al-Qaddafi, who were seeking nuclear technology and have a history of violent war-making, both conventional and terrorist-inspired?

Schell downplays the fact that both of their programs are now gone (Qaddafi purportedly confessed to Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi of his fears of ending up like Saddam). Curiously, Schell also warns how close Saddam was to bomb-making while simultaneously damning the Bush administration for removing him on false pretenses.

So how odd to be told that Saddam did not propose a threat that justified his removal—only to deprecate the efficacy of the 1981 Israeli bombing of the Iraqi reactor at Osirak on the grounds that “after the attack, they [the Iraqis] turned to uranium enrichment, a quicker path to the bomb.” And odder still to learn that “having once put together most of the know-how for building the bomb, Iraq could one day call on its scientists to do so again.”

The biggest change in the nuclear world over the past three decades is that the states, other than us, that have bombs are even less capable of delivering them than the USSR was.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 6, 2007 12:00 AM

Could you please elaborate?

Posted by: Qiao at October 6, 2007 8:54 AM

Even former Soviet officials acknowledge that it wasn't until some years after the Cuban Missile Crisis that they thought they could mount any kind of serious nuclear strike on the U.S. and, in reality, it's doubtful they ever could have. None of the nuclear states today have so much as that limited capability.

Posted by: oj at October 6, 2007 11:05 AM

He means Iran, Pakistan, etc. don't have ICBMs and fleets of intercontinental bombers. But, of course, they do have freighters, and a nuke going off in a U.S. harbor is a genuine concern.

Posted by: PapayaSF at October 6, 2007 11:07 AM

And the defense for a "nuke in a container" is to publicly announce a list, that should it happen, we'd just start going down that list, and worry about figuring out who was really to blame later. And if we missed them, that oversight can always be rectified in a timely manner.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at October 6, 2007 11:38 AM

Oh, and I still think France should be on that list, but for now they can be put in the Libya "on probation" category.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at October 6, 2007 11:42 AM

No, it isn't. It's a trivial concern.

Posted by: oj at October 6, 2007 2:48 PM

One feels like St. Paul at a stoning--all I have to do is hold the coats.

The check on the container-bomb threat is massice counter-value deterrence, the entire jailhouse must understand that the penalty for such an act of terrorism is immediate Shinto-style reformation.

Posted by: Lou Gots at October 7, 2007 7:22 AM