Archive for February, 2012

How the US enables the Iranian bomb

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012
The "Little Boy": a simple fission bomb of the type that destroyed Hiroshima. The Iranian bomb will likely be more sophisticated.

The "Little Boy": a simple fission bomb of the type that destroyed Hiroshima. The Iranian bomb will likely be more sophisticated.

Some years ago I had a job writing code for a large project. Every day my supervisor would come into my office and ask to see my progress. “Can’t you make the program display its opening screen and ‘Ready’ message?” he’d ask. No, I said, I was building data structures and writing subroutines. I was creating building blocks.

He was very unhappy. “You are not performing in this job. I need something to show management,” he said. I told him not to worry, my way of organizing a software development project was different from his.

One day he came in and I showed him that the program was almost complete. He was surprised. “How did you do all that so quickly?” he asked. He had simply assumed that I was goofing off during all those weeks that I was making the pieces. Fitting them together didn’t take long at all.

I think you know where this is going.

A useful nuclear weapon isn’t like a stone axe. It is a system made up of subsystems, which in turn have subsystems. You need the fissionable material, of course, which implies a whole set of systems to prepare it. You need to machine it, store it, handle it. You need a way to create a critical mass quickly, a non-trivial electromechanical problem. You need the appropriate control systems. You need to make it small and light enough and integrate it into a missile warhead or an aircraft system so that it can be delivered. You need to develop ways to simulate and ultimately test the weapon.

Many of the subsystems can be worked on in parallel. The building blocks can be created without assembling them into an actual deliverable weapon until the final stages of the project.

Iran is apparently taking this approach: create as much as possible of the subsystems first, and then put them together at the end.

But some say that there is a substantive difference between what they are doing and a weapons program. Juan Cole suggested in 2009 that Iran was only trying to assemble the technology and materials to build a weapon quickly if and when it decided it wanted one. This, according to Cole, doesn’t violate the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty or Islamic law which supposedly forbids random killing of civilians (both of these are doubtful, but never mind).

US officials have recently been talking like this too:

In Senate testimony on Jan. 31, James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, stated explicitly that American officials believe that Iran is preserving its options for a nuclear weapon, but said there was no evidence that it had made a decision on making a concerted push to build a weapon. David H. Petraeus, the C.I.A. director, concurred with that view at the same hearing. Other senior United States officials, including Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have made similar statements in recent television appearances. (my emphasis)

This strategy is called ‘nuclear latency’, or the ‘Japan option’, since Japan has the technology, know-how and fissionable material to quickly build weapons if it decides to do so.

So, without the ability to read the minds of the Iranian leaders, how can we tell the difference between getting one’s ducks in a row in case one might want to shoot, and lining them up in order to shoot? Are they engaged in something less than a weapons program or is this only a question of project management methodology?

There is no doubt that Iran is developing technology that can only be used for weapons, as noted in the IAEA report of November 2011. For example, the report describes development of fast-acting detonators and a control system which can be used to fire multiple explosive charges at almost the same instant (within 1 microsecond), something for which there are few applications other than nuclear weapons. There are numerous other experiments and projects that are very highly probable to be weapons-related. Most of this activity was completed by 2005 and it would be naive to assume that there hasn’t been further development in these areas.

Combined with their progress in enrichment, this certainly appears to be a weapons program. To continue the duck metaphor, it looks, walks and quacks like one. But until a device is detonated, it is still logically consistent to say that it is only aimed at obtaining nuclear latency.

This is a perfect justification to do nothing. How is it possible to prove that the program is intended to build a bomb or to do everything except build a bomb? It seems that the administration officials quoted above would require either an official announcement of their intentions from the Iranians or an explosion to convince them the program is for real.

The administration has set a very high bar for proof — unreasonably high.

The Iranian strategy is to play for time, doing as much development as possible without putting the final pieces together. And the administration’s strategy is to play along, assuming that until the final pieces are in place, Iran does not have a weapons program.

The outcome of this cooperative enterprise is guaranteed to be an Iranian bomb, unless Israel takes action.

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Fear is better than admiration, and more achievable

Friday, February 24th, 2012
Afghans riot over accidentally burned Qurans

Afghans riot over accidentally burned Qurans

News item:

U.S. President Barack Obama has apologized to Afghans for the burning of Qurans at a U.S. military base, trying to assuage rising anti-American sentiment as an Afghan soldier gunned down two American troops during another day of angry protests.

The U.S.-led military coalition says the Muslim holy books were sent by mistake to a garbage burn pit at Bagram Air Field and the case is under investigation. The explanation and multiple apologies from U.S. officials have yet to calm outrage over the incident, which has also heightened tension between international troops and their Afghan partners.

On Thursday, thousands of protesters, some shouting “Long live Islam!” and “Death to America!” staged demonstrations across Afghanistan for a third day. Protesters climbed the walls of a U.S. base in the east, threw stones inside and adorned an outside wall with the Taliban’s trademark white flag.

Let’s get a grip. The President of the United States apologized to a bunch of 7th century tribesmen who are shooting our soldiers because someone accidentally burned their holy book?

Does that make you feel like we are a great power or what?

With all of the cultural sensitivity training that our officers and troops are undergoing, how did they leave out the fact that their objective is to humiliate their enemies, and that the more we grovel, the more they succeed? And the more they are encouraged?

How much study of the Pashtun (and a great deal of other Muslim) culture does it take for us to understand that weakness invites attack, and apologies, offers of compromise, payoffs, etc. are signs of weakness?

They may be primitive, but they aren’t stupid and they are good tacticians. They understand that our idiotic need to be sensitive to their culture is a weak spot, and they are concentrating their forces there, as good tacticians do.

What we need to do is explain to them in words and deeds that our culture is superior to theirs, because we can kill them much more effectively if we want to than they can kill us. And because we have a superior (that is, more deadly and terrifying) nature than they do, we can bloody well burn any books that we want.

I am not saying that this is my definition of a superior culture. Our culture is superior in many other, more subtle, ways, but they don’t care about these.

They don’t appreciate Christian magnanimity or Jewish compromises. These breed contempt, not admiration. The bottom line for most of the Middle East is power, and the ruthless application thereof.

President Obama seems to want the US to be liked, particularly by Muslims. This is not achievable, and the result of his attempts to bring it about make him a fool that is easily manipulated. Compare Obama’s reputation to that of, say, Vladimir Putin.

This same mistake is being made on different levels in our relations with Iran, Turkey, Egypt and probably other places.

In the Middle East, it’s not just more effective to be feared than to be liked — it’s essential.

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Photographers are accessories to attempted murder

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012
An Arab teenager smashes the window of Zahava Weiss' car

An Arab teenager smashes the window of Zahava Weiss' car

I recently wrote about the continuing (for about 100 years) Palestinian Arab pogrom against Jews in the land of Israel. They are still doing it:

A teacher was on her way home to the West Bank settlement of Karmei Tzur on Tuesday when she found herself the target of a rock salvo that smashed her windshield.

Zehava Weiss, the driver, came out unscathed from an incident that has become a daily experience for residents in the region. An AFP photographer who was standing nearby captured the instance when a Palestinian boy hurled a boulder at her car.

To me it looks more like a brick. The item continues,

According to the police, which collaborates with the IDF on the issue, 368 Palestinians were arrested in 2011 for throwing stones, and 38 were arrested for hurling Molotov cocktails. Over 100 suspects in similar cases were arrested in January and February of this year.

And these were the ones that got arrested! How many incidents like this one were there when no one was arrested?

Here, courtesy of Yisrael Medad, is a little bit of Weiss’s testimony about the incident. Pay attention to her comments about the photographers:

When I came close to the gas station at Bet-Omar (a location that usually requires a driver’s attention due to wrongly parked taxis, bypassing and pulling out into the highway in a careless manner), I observed a man running across the road from right to left.  I first thought that this was a soldier with a rifle and I slowed down to grasp what was happening.  I then noticed dozens of people, old, young and teenagers, congregating on my right.  It then became apparent that the “soldier with a rifle” was actually a photographer with a camera.  He was seeking a better picture angle to snap away at what was about to happen.  On my left were at least two other photographers, waiting for the action.  I should emphasize that I was not the first victim and other cars had already been stoned and so these press photographers were well aware what was happening and was about to happen to me.  None of them, it seems, thought to call for assistance from the police or IDF none of whom were present.

Knowing I had no choice but to continue and surely not stop for otherwise, if I had slowed down, I would have been trapped and blocked off, the only thing in my mind was to proceed home and not get caught at that crossing.  It was difficult to pass through as the rocks came from a distance of just a few feet from the car, ‘zero-range’ as we say.  The rioters clearly could see that the car contained two young females, defenseless.  We were struck by many rocks, my view was blocked by the cracked glass and I simply concentrated on getting out of there as quickly as I could.  At the time, as well as at this moment of writing, I did not fully grasp the danger of our situation.

It was only when I arrived home that I realized the entire front of the car was covered with shattered glass particles including me, the infant seat, the back seat, everything.  There was also damage caused to the sides of the car.  At least eight large rocks and blocks had hit my car.  I learned the rock-throwing continued for a good few minutes afterwards with the resulting damage to other vehicles as well as psychological damage to the drivers and passengers.

There is a name for the crime that these ‘children’ perpetrated, and it is ‘attempted murder’. Sometimes it is not just an attempt and the damage is not just psychological.

And there is also a name for the photographers, who participate as accessories in these ambushes, encourage them, and profit from them: scumbags.

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The “Israel is expected to…” syndrome

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

One country after another has recently pressed Israel not to attack the Iranian nuclear facilities. Russia is the latest:

“Of course any possible military scenario against Iran will be catastrophic for the region and for the whole system of international relations,” Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said at a news conference.

“Therefore I hope Israel understands all these consequences … and they should also consider the consequences of such action for themselves,” Gatilov said.

There must be something in the Russian character that requires statements like this to be delivered in a bullying tone.

Everyone knows that the Iranian threat to Israel is existential. Everyone also knows that Israel’s leaders can predict Iran’s reaction to an Israeli attack, and would not bring this down on their country unless they were convinced that there was no other way to neutralize the more serious nuclear threat.

These warnings, therefore, are remarkably hypocritical and insulting, especially from countries whose immediate danger from Iranian bombs is far less than that of Israel. Telling Israel that it should not defend itself is like saying “just die, but don’t make a mess.”

It’s become a cliché, but I’ll say it anyway: when have Jews heard this before? The difference is that then they had no choice because they had no power to defend themselves. Today there is a Jewish state, which should not be expected to act as though it is as powerless as the European Jews of WWII.

All this is part of the “Israel is expected to…” syndrome.

Israel’s small size means that it cannot absorb too much disruption: a couple of atomic bombs, a few million Arab ‘refugees’, another expulsion of Jews from their homes, even a million economic refugees from Africa might be too much. Poof, there would be no Jewish state.

But Israel is expected to be ‘responsible’ and not strike Iran. Israel is expected to use restraint toward the vicious Hamas and Hizballah terrorists who are trying to murder its citizens day in and day out. Israel is expected to expel its own people and cede territory to its enemies, who have shown by their actions and declared in their words that they want to destroy her.

Israel is expected to be more democratic than any other nation, although it is already too democratic — does the US, for example, have members of Congress who openly support her enemies and call for overthrowing the Constitution? The Israeli Knesset has Haneen Zouabi and others who want to end the Jewish state.

Israel is expected to turn the other cheek in Christian fashion, although few Christian nations would do so in similar circumstances.

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Traffic jams and lives on hold

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012
A "p'cock," a daily occurrence in central Israel

A "p'cock," a daily occurrence in central Israel

Every year I spend a couple of weeks in Israel visiting my children and grandchildren, seeing old friends, and watching my wife buy large quantities of popular music. As the cassettes have been replaced by CDs, my perception of everyday life here has been like a time-lapse film, where the slow changes that the permanent residents barely notice become strikingly visible.

This year as usual I notice a remarkable increase in the number of cars on the road. On major thoroughfares there is always a “p’cock” (cork), a traffic jam, and not just during rush hour. There is construction everywhere, gleaming new neighborhoods rising in places that were formerly empty. The economy is apparently strong. Everyone has a big flat-screen TV although it is still impossible for me to understand how average people afford things like apartments and cars on their wages.

Stuck in a p’cock at 10:30 am I mention to a taxi driver that it looks like things are booming. “Look at all of these cars,” he says. “When do these people go to work? Do they all do business on their cellphones while driving?” “Maybe they start later,” suggests my wife helpfully. The driver, who obviously works long hours, doesn’t believe it. The mall is full of shoppers, though, 99% of whom got there in their cars.

Driving through South Tel Aviv, my son points out the large number of African migrants. He doesn’t need to — it’s impossible not to notice them. Some are waiting for work in pickup zones reminiscent of those in California where illegals from Mexico do the same; others just hang out in the neighborhood, waiting for who knows what. Some are refugees from the fighting in the Sudan, others are simply economic refugees. Israel is a very small country, and surely the next generation of many of these refugees will become Israelis.

People are still nice. Several times when I was looking confused and talking to my wife in English, a passerby came up to me and asked if we needed help. I asked a bus driver how many stops there were before the one that I wanted, and when the bus slowed for my stop, another passenger that had overheard helpfully let me know.

Almost all of my friends wanted to know what I thought the US would do about Iran. The subject almost always came up, although I did not bring it up. They did not understand US policy and where the Obama administration stands. “Doesn’t he see that if Iran gets even one bomb, [the US] will be screwed?” said one. “Everything will change.” I couldn’t explain it to them.

Nobody, but nobody, mentioned the ‘peace process’ that so interests the US and European media. Of course, none of my friends works for the Ha’aretz newspaper.

Everyone seems to be aware that there will be some kind of confrontation between Israel and Iran and its proxies, and this knowledge lies below the surface of their daily life. My son was lucky enough to buy an apartment before the recent astronomical rise in prices and now wants to sell it and get a larger one for his growing family. But “the market is frozen,” he said. No one is buying. When I went on a walk the other day I passed numerous real estate brokerages; the offices were all empty of customers.

Things are on hold. People understand that there will be a war, that reserve soldiers will be activated, and that there will be some damage on the home front. Nobody has any idea of how bad it will be. The center of the country has not been hit since the Iraqi Scuds of the 1990-91 Gulf war, which perhaps miraculously only killed two people.

My son has picked up gas masks for his family. My daughter hasn’t yet. “So why haven’t you? They are running out,” I say, annoyed. “Don’t worry, I know someone,” she responded.

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