The Inspection Game

Today, talks began between the U.N. weapons inspection team and the Iraqi government.
A brief refresher history: at first, there was the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM), established in 1991 right after the end of the Gulf War. UNSCOM was the “mean” inspection team: they took their mandate to mean search anywhere, anytime. These are the guys who you heard about having shouting matches with Iraqi guards and promising cruise missiles if they didn’t get access through that door right now. (That was inspector-turned-flake Scott Ritter, if I remember correctly, during his aggressive phase).
But UNSCOM fell out of favor, and finally withdrew its people from Iraq in 1998. Then, in December 1999, the Security Council created the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC). One key difference between UNMOVIC and UNSCOM is that UNMOVIC staff actually work for the U.N. — wheras UNSCOM personnel were paid by their home governments. This is a good thing or a bad thing, depending on who you ask.
At this point, it is interesting to note how much appears to lie on one man: Hans Blix, the lead inspector and Chairman of UNMOVIC . If Blix goes into these meetings with a hard line, then we may see Iraq’s bluff crumble sooner, rather than later.
And here’s where we get to the interesting part. The “common wisdom” assumption is that Iraq is expecting to get a nice cushy inspection regime back. In particular, one that respects Iraq’s insane demands to respect the large “Presidental Areas”.
The common wisdom also seems to suggest that because the inspection regime currently on the table is based on UMOVIC, it will indeed be a loose one. That’s why we need a new resolution, say Tony and George.
But look closely at the recent statements from Hans Blix, and something interesting emerges.
In this ABC News piece, he told reporters that he was going into the talks with the assumption that no area was off limits to inspectors — explicitly including the presidential areas. And even back in March, he was stating that he needed “immediate, unconditional, and unrestricted” access to accomplish his mission.
So I ask: Could we be seeing yet another example of rope-a-dope?
While Blair and Bush appear to be putting all their hopes on a new U.N. resolution that allegedlly tightens up the inspection regime, here’s mild-mannered Dr. Blix, who appears to have every intention of demanding full access anyway. And if, indeed, he does, and as everyone expects, Iraq refuses to provide full access…
Well then, all those countries who said no new resolution is necessary may well be proved right — but not in the way that they expected.
The Bear Predicts: First, we’ll see the inspection talks break down this week, and it will become crystal clear that a) Blix was no pushover and drew a hard line and b) Iraq misjudged the new inspection plan badly, assuming that it would be a kind, gentle one.
At that point, French, Chinese, and Russian objections to the new resolution will go “poof”, and it will pass within the next few weeks. And after that… well, next stop Baghdad, most likely.
And yet again, Bush will have gotten exactly what he wanted by appearing to give his opponents exactly what they wanted…
Update: Hmmmm. Full disclosure: this Financial Times story suggests that perhaps Dr. Blix may waffle a bit after all: demanding access to presidential sites, but only under the previous arrangement that put conditions on that access. But then again, this piece from the Sydney Morning Herald has the following encouraging quote from an International Atomic Energy Agency spokeswoman: “We are not going to be negotiating here. We’re going to be laying on the table the requirements we’re going to have as inspectors.”
Perhaps I’ll be proved to be overly-optimistic: that doesn’t happen often, so I suppose that’s ok. We’ll see.
Update Again: Instapundit kindly links, and contrasted my rope-a-dope theory with a piece by Michiel Visser in which Michiel declares “Inspections are Useless”.
I don’t disagree, actually, if you’re talking about the inspections themselves: I don’t think they can possibly work to actually find all of Iraq’s weapons, as I’ve written before.
But what I’m noticing is that while it has been commonly acknowledged that the charade of inspections helps Iraq, in this case, the same charade is actually serving the interests of those who want to abandon inspections once and for all…

Grams, not Kilograms!

Ha’aretz has just reported that the seized uranium weighs in at “hundreds of grams”, not the 15 kilograms originally reported.
Well, that’s good news.
And hey, at least we all got to learn how nuclear weapons are built….
Update: Reuters has a little more information, reporting the actual weight of the uranium as 140 grams, and indicating what I suspected — that the 15kg originally reported included the weight of the lead container.
And more from CNN: Which has this story, containing the following odd tidbits: “The two men arrested with the material were released due to lack of evidence and have since disappeared, Dilek [the mayor a Turkish town near where the seizure occured] said…Turkish officials said they did not know whether the uranium was refined weapons-grade material or naturally occurring uranium, which would have to be refined before it could be used in a weapon. ”

Very Bad Things

Update 9/29, 8am: It looks like the story below is now proving to be inaccurate: Ha’aretz is reporting that the amount seized was in the hundreds-of-grams range, not 15 kilograms. See their story here.
Glenn is first off the mark this morning with some breaking news: Turkish authorities are claiming to have arrested men carrying more than 33 pounds of weapons-grade uranium.
Although there is no official indication (yet) as to what the smugglers’ final destination was, we can all take a pretty good guess, I think.
More as it develops…
Update: In Glenn’s original post, he commented on the amount of uranium seized: “That’s critical mass folks — enough for a bomb all by itself”
But then I noticed this UPI story on the matter, which says: “While substantial, 15 kilograms alone of enriched uranium is not quite enough to make a “proper” nuclear bomb, according to U.S. government information. Twenty-five kilograms is considered the standard threshold to ignite such a device’s searing force. Nuclear bombs also require at least least 8 kilograms of plutonium.”
So who’s right? Well, I did some research and dug up some information. Please note up front, however, that this is the product of a bit of net surfing, and nothing more: I’m learning this as I go, so read the primary sources yourself and make your own judgments.
Here are the sources:
This paper from the Center for Contemporary Conflict (CCC), associated with the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School, says “Approximately 25 Kg of highly enriched uranium (HEU) is needed to build a gun-assembly device” (A gun-assembly is the same kind of weapon as ‘Little Boy’, the bomb which the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima).
This page on the history of the Manhattan project states that the total quantity of uranium used in the ‘Little Boy’ weapon was about 140 lbs (64 kg), considerably more than was seized. One would assume, however, that Little Boy was an inefficient design and a modern one would require significantly less uranium.
This page by the Federation of American Scientists has a number of relevant statements embedded within it, including the following:
– A uranium bomb could be constructed using an implosion-sphere design with anywhere from 15 – 56 kg of weapons-grade uranium. (‘Fat Man’, the weapon used on Nagasaki, was an implosion-sphere design, except it used plutonium rather than uranium. Note that my understanding is that an implosion-sphere design is significantly trickier than a gun-type design, and would not be a good choice for a terrorist or government without the means to perform testing. It is possible, however).
– The nuclear weapons developed by South Africa were gun-type designs, and each used 50kg of uranium.
This PDF file, a 1993 report entitled “Technologies Underlying Weapons of Mass Destruction: Technical Aspects of Nuclear Proliferation” from the U.S. Congress Office of Technology Assessment, has a great deal of information on weapons development and various designs, and also states the following: “Significant quantities of nuclear materials have been defined by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which is charged with ensuring that these materials not be diverted from peaceful uses into weapons… [t]hese thresholds, which the IAEA considers sufficient for processing into a weapon, are 8 kg of plutonium (total element) or 25 kg of the isotope uranium-235 in highly enriched form…”
This citation appears on page 55 of the document. (Note that I attempted to find a direct citation from IAEA, but their website is a nightmare and I was unable to find a relevant document. ) This document also repeats the same information as above — that an implosion sphere design would require 15-56kg of uranium — but appears to me to be quoting from the same root source as the FAS document.
So what’s the bottom line? Well, you can decide for yourself, read the sources. But my conclusion is that the 15kg seized in Turkey is not enough for the sure-fire gun design which you could be pretty sure would work the first time. But it is apparently just barely enough for a weapon using the tricky implosion-sphere design that isn’t sure to work without prior testing. So Glenn squeaks by!
UPI, on the other hand, isn’t so lucky. Leaving aside their estimate of uranium required, note that none of the sources above suggest that plutonium would be required in addition to uranium to devleop a nuclear bomb. So I would conclude that the UPI story was incorrect in its statement that “Nuclear bombs also require at least least 8 kilograms of plutonium.”. (That sounds suspiciously like the amount of plutonium required for a plutonium-only bomb, actually: so perhaps UPI confused an “OR” with an “AND” in this case).
As usual: Advantage, Instapundit!
As I said in my preface, I just learned all of this with a bit of web surfing, so please review the primary sources yourself and make your own judgements. And by all means, if anyone has any additional information or feedback, send it my way and I’ll share with the class.
Another Update: Another relevant question, given that we presume (or fear) that Iraq was the intended destination for the uranium, would be, “What types of weapon designs do we know Iraq has worked on?”
Handily, the British government helps us out here. The recently released Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction: The Assessment of the British Government (PDF) states that, pre-Gulf War, “Iraq

The Agonist’s National Security Strategy

I try to keep my blog-promises, if perhaps not in an entirely timely manner. (I still owe Kaus a piece on welfare reform… shudder. )
So I finally got around to reviewing the responses I got from my call for folks to write their own National Security Strategy, as I suspected there was significant disatisfaction with Bush’s version (which I personally found impressive).
Actually, it was only one response, from The Agonist. I had two reactions reading it: first, it was quite well done, and second, it was far, far closer to Bush’s version than I had expected.
I’d like to go through it in detail — not as a Fisking, mind you, but to honestly try to understand where the differences —and similarities — with Bush’s policy exist. So here’s the key “action points” I took away from the Agonist’s submission (which, incidentally, was written as a speech to be delivered by President Bradley):
“Let us not be mistaken with what hatred our enemies desire our destruction. They are cunning, evil and determined and they will be destroyed. This nation will not tolerate, regardless of the perceived injustices of our enemies, the wanton murder of innocents. We will bring war to our enemies everywhere they are, in the bright light of the global media and the dark lairs of terrorist secrecy, we will hunt them down, and they will know the terror of the righteous, the might of the just, and the fury of the proud.”
Perfect; no moral equivalence or hesitation here. Consistency with Bush’s approach: pretty much identical.
“I will soon submit to the Congress a bill requesting the complete overhaul of our intelligence agencies. They have failed us and they must be reformed. I will not stand for the old politics of blame. The sacred blood of over 2,000 Americans forces us to put new emphasis on human intelligence gathering and analysis. Our intelligence agencies will be reformed and they will work as a team.
* In my request I am calling for:
*The Counter Terrorism Department of the FBI to be merged into the CIA, with identical statutory authority as they have previously enjoyed.
* All Intelligence agencies, NSA, DIA, Naval Intelligence, etc are to be moved into the CIA, controlled by the Director of the CIA and run by the Director of the CIA.
* I humbly request of Congress a doubling in funding for analysis, over the next four years, and a tripling over the next eight. Our failure was not one of gathering intelligence, it was a failure of analysis. This must change. “

I like it. We can quibble over how to reform the intelligence agencies, but the statement that they failed and must be seriously changed is bang on. Consistency with Bush’s approach: slight, but I like Agonist’s better.
“In the aftermath of September 11, it is clear, to members of this government, that certain nations have played a small, but significant role in the planning for the attacks that tragically shocked this nation on September 11. We know who you are. You harbor, aid and abet terrorists. Therefore you are terrorists. The prerogatives of sovereignty do not give you the right to hatch plans that seek to spread mayhem and destruction beyond your borders. “
Works for me. Also consistent with Bush’s approach.
“This nation did not allow Milosevic to spread his mayhem and destruction beyond his borders and we will not allow Iraq to do the same thing. The threat that Iraq poses to the security of the region and the prosperity of the global community is clear. And it must be halted. All weapons of mass destruction must be destroyed. Traditional international law, going back to the time of Grotius, sanctions pre-emptive action against an immediate threat. Iraq poses an immediate threat to his neighbors, us and the global community… Therefore, I will request from Congress a formal Declaration of War. Our nation must have the necessary tools to fight, the necessary unity and the necessary will. “
Whoah, wasn’t expecting that. But I’m fine with it. Declaring war is arguably more hawkish than Bush’s approach, but is more intellectually honest as well.
I cannot call upon Congress to ratify the Kyoto accords. The terms of this treaty are too onerous. But I do call for a new global environmental summit to renegotiate the treaty, to be held in San Antonio, Texas next year, on the anniversary of this speech.
What I can call upon Congress to do is the following:
*Recognize that the continued reliance on foreign oil is both detrimental to our security and a drain on our prosperity.
*Therefore, I ask the Congress to open up 1/3 of ANWR for exploration but this must be met with a statutory 15% increase in CAFE standards within the next four years, followed by another 1/3 of ANWR being opened up on the condition that another statutory 15% increase in CAFE is legislated.
*I request Congress enact the Tobin Tax on all currency speculation that falls within the sovereignty of the United States and all monies to be set aside into a special fund aimed at responsible debt relief for third world nations that meet the necessary criteria.
*I pledge to work with Congress to find an equitable national energy policy that spread the burdens and benefits to all citizens of this great nation. “

This seems reasonable to me; I’m not an environmental / energy expert, but the general outline that a) Kyoto is unworkable, but b) That doesn’t mean all environmental agreements are pointless, so let’s try again and c) Recognizing we need our own fossil fuel supplies while d) Trying to focus on renewables for the future all sounds right to me.
“If we the United States demand the right to infringe upon the sovereignty of other countries–by ferreting out their unsafe nuclear materials or uprooting their terrorist cells–in the name of preemption, we cannot obsessively reject even minor infringements upon our own sovereignty, as many Americans today do. We must understand, in short, what the architects of the Post World War II settlement understood in the early years of the cold war–that the United States needs not only the resolve to meet its enemies on the battlefield but also the generosity and liberal spirit to help keep fragile societies from becoming battlefields.”
Now here’s where I get a little lost. I see a call for Americans to be prepared to give up some of our sovereignty — with the honest acknowledgement that we’re depriving other nations of theirs — but I don’t see any specifics about what, precisely, the speaker is saying we should be prepared to give up. Without specifics, hard to say whether its reasonable or not.
Anyway, overall, I think its a great approach. But oddly, it seems if anything, just as hawkish as Bush’s. I don’t know Agonist well, so maybe I was just working with a bad set of preconceptions.
At any rate, it’s worth reading the whole thing, so go do so, and thanks to Agonist for joining in…

MSNBC Blog Central

MSNBC is continuing their foray into weblogs, and has now established Weblog Central. They’ve got a fellow, Will Femia, doing a blog-on-blogs called Blogspotting, and are also providing a list of resources like Blogdex, Moveable Type, etc. More big media bloggin’ — cool.

Volokh does TOTN

Eugene Volokh is being shy about his appearance on NPR bigwig talkshow Talk of The Nation yesterday, and hasn’t posted a link to the audio yet. So I will. (Amusingly, when I sent him a “go get ’em!” email, he replied with a thanks — during the live broadcast. One can assume, then, that the Prof. has little problem with the walking-and-chewing-gum thing; or perhaps taking on NPR guests just doesn’t require all that much cycle time.)

OK, you have our attention. Happy?

It occurs to me, given recent events, that it is now painfully obvious that we need a German equivalent of “cheese-eating-surrender-monkey.”
I’m thinking it should begin with “schnitzel-snarfing-“, but after that it gets foggy.
More later if I think of a good one; in the meantime, feel free to contribute your own…
Update: Hmph. Seems I was quite behind the curve on this one. Check out Christopher Johnson’s similar call for suggestions, and Tim Blair’s fine responses.

The paths of heroes

The following is part of a blogburst, a simultaneous, cross-linked posting of many blogs on a single theme. This blogburst concerns Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its spinoff series, Angel. For a guide to other Buffy/Angel articles, go to The Buffy BlogBurst Index.
He sits across the small table, eyeing me with a cautious, hard stare over the wire rims of his glasses. He is the very model of the man who has seen too much to be troubled by the likes of me; but still, he also knows well enough not to underestimate by appearance.
In this case, though, the appearance is correct. I’m harmless.
“Why am I here?” he asks in a smooth British voice.
“Excellent question. Why are any of us here? A bit deep for this early in the morning though, don’t you think?” I settle for glibness, as I’m not sure I know the answer in sincerity.
He keeps staring. A waitress arrives and delivers me coffee; for him, tea.
Still staring. A patient man, indeed.
“To talk,” I admit finally. “That’s all.”
His posture remains wary, but I can see his eyes soften slightly.
“Indeed,” he says, looking around the cafe. “Why don’t we start with where we are, then.”
“Southern California,” I say with a slight smile. “Not far from Sunnydale, or at least, where it would be.”
The wariness returns to his expression, now tinged with genuine concern. “Would be?”
“Sorry,” I say quickly. “Different universe. No Sunnydale here.”
This is a man for whom that is a perfectly sensible explanation, and so he relaxes once more. “No Buffy, then? Who is the Slayer?”
“No Slayer,” I say. “No vampires.”
For the first time I think I have truly shocked him, and he blinks at his tea, taking this in. He makes work out of his tea ritual for a few moments, finally taking a sip and wincing slightly before looking me in the eye again.
“This must be a wonderful universe indeed. No vampires…” He looks thoughtful. “Demons?”
Curiosity is replacing wariness on his face as he understands. “No magic at all, then?”
“Not a drop.”
“Well,” he says, taking it in. “That must make matters… simpler.”
“You’d think so, wouldn’t you?”
He waits, patiently.
“I said there were no demons here, but I guess that’s not completely true,” I begin. “It’s just that here, they don’t simply wear a human face; they are human.”
“Not so different, then,” he replies. “Not every evil in my world is supernatural.”
“No,” I counter. “It is different. Certainly, there are men who do evil in your world. But your great struggles … the great evils that must be defeated, those that threaten the world itself; they don’t come from humanity.”
He considers this, looking at me solemnly. “And you believe you face such a great evil now? An evil that comes from within humanity?”
I nod, trying to find purchase in my thoughts; somewhere to start.
And so I tell him about September. About those who have sworn to destroy my country, and the hatred they have for everything I value about our civilization. About the pain they have already inflicted, and my deep, pervading fear that the worst is yet to come.
His expression is grim, now, as he considers what I have told him. I realize suddenly that while this man has faced the end of the world; the end of everything many times over, he has never truly faced a horror like the one in New York that I have described to him. He has lost battles, yes. But never one like this; never one with a price so high.
“You cannot change the minds of these people?” he asks, though I know he realizes the answer. He is thorough, to the last.
“Who can know?” I say in a moment of total honesty. “Perhaps some. But most; no. They are too far gone.”
He nods, and looks at me, his expression hard. “Then you must fight them, with every power this world has to offer you.”
I smile faintly, acknowledging this wisdom. “That, I know,” I say. “But here’s where we get to the other big difference between your world and mine.”
And I tell him of the debates. The discussions; the delays, the apologies well-meaning people provide for the murderers. The vast power my nation has to bring justice and freedom to the world; and the equally vast hesitation that we have at using it. The schism between those, like me, who believe that if we do not act, our very world may be threatened, and those who feel that for us to act at all would plunge the world into chaos; those that believe that somewhere along the line, we lost the moral clarity necessary for us to know right from wrong, and that in the end, that makes us no different from those who seek to destroy us. Those that believe, perhaps, that evil does not exist at all.
“In your world, the lines are clearer,” I conclude. “You disagree; you debate, you argue at times. But only for a few minutes. And then the path is clear; difficult, I know; horribly so at times. But you know what must be done, and nobody argues that the demon who just murdered half the town should be allowed to walk free because he grew up in a poor, oppressed dimension.”
He pauses. “Sometimes, they do,” he says softly, his eyes hard. And I remember Jenny, and curse myself.
“I’m sorry,” I say gently. “But that was different, and I know you know that. He was not the same man… not the same thing that killed her.”
I push onward. “But here, the murderers need not repent for their crimes to be excused and justified. Christians speak of original sin, but what I see is original innocence; the idea that some people may be excused any acts of barbarism no matter how horrific, simply because they were sinned against themsleves. It’s worse than the ends justifying the means; here, the root causes justify the means.”
He looks at me calmly, expression unreadable, and I wonder if he has not forgiven me my foolish slip. “Are you a soldier?” he asks abruptly.
I laugh once. “Hardly,” I admit. “I’m just… nobody. One man in a country of millions. A guy with what he thinks is a good sense of what is happening in the world, and grand ideas about what must be done of it.” I pause. “On good days, I think I’m a writer. Other days… not so much.”
“A writer,” he says thoughtfully, ignoring my qualification. “That is… appropriate.”
I observe him quizzically. “Why?”
“The war you fight,” he begins slowly, “It is not one of battles like those I have seen. Your nation can destroy any enemy once they are identified; once the will is found that frees you to act. Once the battle is engaged, there seems no question who will emerge the victor.”
“Your true struggle, it seems, is finding that will. Of building the consensus that lets you enter the battle at all. And that is where the real war is, and where your task lies.”
I smile. “I try,” I admit. “But one voice among so many…”
“Is the voice that may turn the tide,” he says forcefully, cutting me off.
He looks me up and down, and I feel my measure being taken. “I will tell you this,” he says. “I do not know which frightens me more. The enemy you face… or the terrible power that your nation holds in its hands to fight that threat.”
“If you are mistaken,” he warns, “If you misjudge… the consequences will be… severe . Choose wisely, and argue well.”
I nod, and we sit for a moment in silence.
“Why me?” he asks, breaking our reverie. “Why not Buffy?”
I do not hesitate; I knew the question would come.
“Because Buffy is a hero who is pure of heart,” I answer. “No matter how much I explained; how evil the acts of these men were, I don’t think she could ever give up on them. She has too much faith in humanity for that.”
I look him straight in the eye, and quote his own words. “She’s not like us,” I say, with a rueful smile. “And in this war, her compassion would be her undoing. And ours.”
“Whereas I…” he says, and it is barely a question.
“…know that sometimes, the world is not black and white. That difficult things must sometime be done. That sometimes our own innocence cannot be preserved, if we want to make the world safe for the true innocents,” I say, and allow my gaze to fall to his hands.
He nods, declining to argue my description, or the implicit charge of my eyes.
“You are a different kind of hero,” I continue. “The kind who makes the hard choices. Who sees that not acting, and ensuring that you do not risk your own moral purity, is sometimes not the truly moral path to take at all.”
“In other words, you are the kind of hero that I fear we will need in this war,” I conclude.
The silence draws out again, and I notice that his tea has gone; as has my coffee.
“Just out the door?” he asks, and I nod.
He rises, and I stand with him.
“Give our best to Buffy,” I say. “Our worlds need both kinds of heroes. Perhaps someday we will make a world here where those who think like you and I are truly obsolete. But for now… ”
“For now, you will fight,” he declares. “In the war of ideas; in the way you know best.”
I extend my hand, and he shakes it firmly. “Good luck in your war,” he says solemnly.
“And to you in yours,” I reply. “I fear things may be getting interesting for you again very soon.”
A flash of true humor crosses his face for the first time. “When has it ever not been?” he asks.
And with that, he is gone. And I am left with an empty coffee cup, and thoughts of heroes.

Freidman & Antiglobos

Tom Freidman thinks that 9/11 “may well be remembered for bringing some sobriety to the antiglobalization movement,” pointing to potential economic giants such as India and China as ardent globofans. Money quote: “[T]he most important reason why globalization is alive and well post-9/11 is that while pampered college students and academics in the West continue to debate about whether countries should globalize, the two biggest countries in the world, India and China