Monday, March 5, 2007

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Movie stars. Swimming pools. Loose nukes.

Blogging will again be light this week because I'm going to Los Angeles for a UCLA conference entitled "Nuclear Weapons in a New Century: Facing the Emerging Challenges."

As I have to say something about this in 48 hours, readers are strongly encouraged to proffer any bright ideas they might have about how to deal with this issue.

posted by Dan on 03.05.07 at 02:07 PM


Only a few governments in the world have the power to address this issue, and they are resolute about doing either nothing, or attacking innocent countries. Estamos tan jodidos.

posted by: OpenBorderMan on 03.05.07 at 02:07 PM [permalink]

Loose nukes. I'm against em. You can quote me on that.

posted by: Mark Buehenr on 03.05.07 at 02:07 PM [permalink]

1. For handling existing nuclear powers, I strongly recommend the idea that Joe Haldeman came up with in _Tool of the Trade_.

2. Broad-spectrum economic sanctions don't work, and are often counterproductive. On the other hand, for despotic regimes such as North Korea, blockades of luxury items can be useful.

3. One colleague of mine suggested that, as a deterrent, the U.S. should publicly commit to providing nuclear weapons -- not the technology to develop them, but the weapons themselves -- to the enemies of states which develop nuclear weapons. For example, if North Korea develops atomic weapons, we ought to sell/give atomic weapons to South Korea. If Iran develops atomic weapons, we should give some to Iraq.

I don't feel comfortable with this, for two reasons. One is that I'm pretty strongly non-interventionist (except when it comes to humanitarian interventions, e.g. Darfur). The other is that I don't like the idea of *anyone* owning nukes. (I'm a hard-core libertarian, and I don't want private individuals or businesses to own nukes, and I don't want governments to have them either.)

But it's an interesting possibility.

posted by: John Fast on 03.05.07 at 02:07 PM [permalink]

It ain't the nukes so much as the ability to be far enough away from them when they go off. That's the tricky part. Backpack nukes are all the rage in the novels of Vince Flynn, Tom Clancy, et al, but don't really exist. They are more like "semi tractor-trailer-sized" nukes. Now, if you notice some Islamo-fascist profile types in the library looking up information on the Davy Crockett cannon, you can start worrying.

posted by: Useless Sam Grant on 03.05.07 at 02:07 PM [permalink]

In defense of Tom Clancy, it wasn't a backpack nuke in "The Sum of All Fears"; it was disguised as an professional-grade VCR in the back of a fake network sports satellite truck.

I tend to agree with US Grant, though; I tend to doubt the ability of non-state actors to obtain the technology or resources to either develop, obtain or operate a nuclear weapon. I don't doubt their desire to get one or their willingness to use it.

posted by: Klug on 03.05.07 at 02:07 PM [permalink]

1) hire jack bauer to find the remaining suitcase nukes.

2) stay out of his way

posted by: peter on 03.05.07 at 02:07 PM [permalink]

1. Joe Haldeman's proposal (in _Tool of the Trade_) is basically an addendum to the NNPT: the each NWS agrees to reduce its stockpiles to a level (measured by both number of warheads, and total megatons) no larger than that of the largest stockpile of a state not party to the Treaty.

In other words, the U.S., Russia, the U.K., France, and China would each reduce their stockpiles of nuclear weapons down to (roughly) a hundred warheads, with a total yield of about 200 megatons.

2. For the record, I'm opposed to governments (and other people) possessing nuclear weapons because I'm opposed to the use of weapons that kill innocent people, such as civilians. (Although I'm sympathetic to Vernor Vinge's story "The Ungoverned," and have discussed the matter with him.)

posted by: John Fast on 03.05.07 at 02:07 PM [permalink]

Which movie stars do you expect to show up at this conference?

Martin Sheen? Kiefer Sutherland? Lindsay Lohan?

Too bad Slim Pickens is dead, I think he'd have some ideas about this subject.

Enjoy yourself at UCLA, see you at Hyde.

And be thankful Al Gore is elsewhere, or else we wouldn't be having record high temperatures in LA right now.

posted by: XWL on 03.05.07 at 02:07 PM [permalink]

Uranium enrichment, plutonium production, and weaponization at the militarily-useful level are hard engineering problems, very hard. Most notorious suspect proliferant states have little hope of solving these problems. Ergo, diversion from existing stocks (former USSR) remains the key problem.

posted by: Ralph Hitchens on 03.05.07 at 02:07 PM [permalink]

Alas, Loompanics is out of business. They sold a tongue-in-cheek book entitled "Basement Nukes" that addressed several scenarios for dealing with loose nuclear weapons. I no longer have my copy of this book. Good luck with your talk.

posted by: Tony Suruda on 03.05.07 at 02:07 PM [permalink]

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