10 March 2017   Leave a comment

South Korean President Park Geun-hye has been removed from office by the country’s constitutional court.  Her impeachment follows evidence of widespread corruption within her administration and has also led to the detention of the CEO of Samsung, one of the country’s largest industrial enterprises.  The impeachment leads to a political vacuum in a vital US ally at a  time when East Asian international relations are being tested by China, North Korea, and Japan.  Elections are scheduled for May and early polls give Moon Jae-in, a progressive who has favored more benign relations with North Korea, a strong lead.  Moon’s elections would not sit well with the rhetoric coming out of the US Trump Administration regarding North Korea.

In an interview with the TV station, CNBC, the newly confirmed administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, was asked whether he believed that human activity leading to the emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) was responsible for climate change.  He responded:

“I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do and there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact, so no, I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.”

David Roberts has written an important article on the significance of this denial.  Pruitt’s position, which contradicts the positions of the most informed scientists in the world, is not based on ignorance or stupidity.  His position is much more than simply “mistaken.”  Pruitt is taking a position based upon his power to do so and his interests in constructing a truth based on something other than science.  The position is reminiscent of the Athenian advice to the Melians:  “The strong do as they will, while the weak suffer what they must”.

A seemingly minor change to the US nuclear weapons arsenal has significantly enhanced its destructive power.  The US has relied heavily on what it calls a “triad” of delivery systems for its nuclear weapons: land-based, sea-based, and air-launched missiles.  Each of these delivery systems has significant costs and benefits, and in the case of sea-launched missiles from submarines, the advantage was always their difficulty to track, but their disadvantage was imprecise targeting.  A new fuzing mechanism for the submarine launched missiles has improved their accuracy to the point where submarine-launched missiles could be used in precision strikes against missile silos of opposing countries.  According to a recent study:

“As a consequence, the US submarine force today is much more capable than it was previously against hardened targets such as Russian ICBM silos. A decade ago, only about 20 percent of US submarine warheads had hard-target kill capability; today they all do.”

The Russians will likely regard this new capability as highly threatening–it means that undetectable US submarines could theoretically disarm the Russian land-based missile systems before the Russians would even know what was happening.

Posted March 10, 2017 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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