3 February 2018   Leave a comment

The US Department of Defense has released its Nuclear Posture Review” which was requested by President Trump on 27 January 2017.  The last Review was done in 2010.  The Review defines the US nuclear policy and strategy in these terms:

“The highest U.S. nuclear policy and strategy priority is to deter potential adversaries from nuclear attack of any scale. However, deterring nuclear attack is not the sole purpose of nuclear weapons. Given the diverse threats and profound uncertainties of the current and future threat environment, U.S. nuclear forces play the following critical roles in U.S. national security strategy. They contribute to the:

  • Deterrence of nuclear and non-nuclear attack;
  • Assurance of allies and partners;
  • Achievement of U.S. objectives if deterrence fails; and
  • Capacity to hedge against an uncertain future.

These roles are complementary and interrelated, and the adequacy of U.S. nuclear forces must be assessed against each role and the strategy designed to fulfill it. Preventing proliferation and denying terrorists access to finished weapons, material, or expertise are also key considerations in the elaboration of U.S. nuclear policy and requirements.”

The scope of these objectives is breathtaking and suggests a belief that nuclear weapons can do more than simply dig deep holes and kill a lot of people.  Moreover, the list of additional or upgraded components to the existing nuclear force is incredibly ambitious (pp. 10-11) which suggests that there are even more nuanced objectives for nuclear weapons.  It also discusses developments in the arsenals of Russia and China which have been the source of speculation (a nuclear torpedo, for example) but of no direct evidence. The Review is even more troubling given the very deliberate and dramatic downsizing of the US Department of State.  Indeed, the recent announcement that State Department Undersecretary for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon, Jr is leaving the State Department after 35 years in the Department and serving 6 Presidents is testimony to how depleted the US diplomatic corps has become.  

 

Independent UN monitors have submitted a confidential report to the Security Council which alleges that North Korea have been able to avoid some of the sanctions imposed on it for its nuclear weapons program.  The report, which was seen by Reuters, but not published, said that “North Korea had shipped coal to ports, including those in Russia, China, South Korea, Malaysia and Vietnam, mainly using false paperwork that showed countries such as Russia and China as the source of coal, instead of North Korea”.  The report suggests that North Korea had earned more than $200 million from its illicit exports.  The report also purportedly documents more than 40 shipments of ballistic missile components to Syria as well as weapons to Syria.  International sanctions are incredibly difficult to enforce, but violations do not warrant their abandonment.

 

Yemen has been ripped apart by civil and international war since 2014.  The roots of the conflict, however, are complex.  They stretch back to colonial rule, the strategic importance of Yemen to the flow of Middle Eastern oil, and the interventions of outside powers like Saudi Arabia, Iran, the US, and other Persian Gulf states.  Ben Watson has written an article for The Atlantic that gives an excellent summary of how the conflict unfolded and how the people of Yemen have been used as pawns for the strategic interests of others.  According to The Washington Post: “Eight million people, or a third of Yemen’s population, are facing famine. A cholera outbreak that has affected roughly a million people is one of the largest ever recorded. More than 10,000 people have been killed since the war began”.  The destruction of Yemeni society will endure for many years even after the conflict dies down.

Posted February 3, 2018 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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