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  • D-Brief considers if gas giant exoplanet Kelt-9b is actually evaporating.

  • The Dragon's Gaze links to a paper that considers where to find signs of prior indigenous civilizations in our solar system. (The Moon, Mars, and outer solar system look good.

  • Joe. My. God. reveals the Israeli nuclear option in the 1967 war.

  • Language Log shares a clip of a Nova Scotia Gaelic folktale about a man named Donald.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes the ongoing deportations of Hispanic undocumented migrants from the United States.

  • The LRB Blog notes the brittle rhetoric of May and the Conservatives.

  • The NYRB Daily mourns the Trump Administration's plans for American education.

  • Savage Minds considers the world now in the context of the reign of the dangerous nonsense of Neil Postman.

  • Strange Maps shares a map documenting the spread of chess from India to Ireland in a millennium.

  • Window on Eurasia argues that the Russian government needs to do more to protect minority languages.

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  • 'Apostrophen's 'Nathan Smith describes his writing projects for this year.

  • The Dragon's Gaze links to a paper examining exomoon formation.

  • The LRB Blog worries about Trump's hold on the button.

  • The NYRB Daily looks at Rex Tillerson, an oil company diplomat to autocrats.

  • Personal Reflections' Jim Belshaw shares the rediscovered mid-19th century painting by Legros, L'Angelus.
  • Towleroad looks at the Russian tradition of kompromat, the gathering of compromising information for blackmail.

  • Transit Toronto notes that TTC surveying in Scarborough is beginning.

  • Understanding Society looks at path dependency in the formation of academic disciplines.

  • Window on Eurasia looks at Russian tensions regarding gastarbeiter migration and suggests Russia is set to actively sponsor separatism across the former Soviet Union.

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  • Bloomberg notes the closure of Poland's frontier with Kaliningrad, looks at how Google is beating out Facebook in helping India get connected to the Internet, notes British arms makers' efforts to diversify beyond Europe and examines the United Kingdom's difficult negotiations to get out of the European Union, looks at the problems of investing in Argentina, looks at the complications of Germany's clean energy policy, observes that the Israeli government gave the schools of ultra-Orthodox Jews the right not to teach math and English, examines the consequences of terrorism on French politics, and examines at length the plight of South Asian migrant workers in the Gulf dependent on their employers.

  • Bloomberg View notes Donald Trump's bromance with Putin's Russia, examines Melania Trump's potential immigrant problems, and is critical of Thailand's new anti-democratic constitution.

  • CBC looks at how some video stores in Canada are hanging on.

  • The Inter Press Service notes that the Olympic Games marks the end of a decade of megaprojects in Brazil.

  • MacLean's approves of the eighth and final book in the Harry Potter series.

  • The National Post reports on a Ukrainian proposal to transform Chernobyl into a solar farm, and examines an abandoned plan to use nuclear weapons to unleash Alberta's oil sands.

  • Open Democracy looks at the relationship between wealth and femicide in India, fears a possible coup in Ukraine, looks at the new relationship between China and Africa, examines the outsized importance of Corbyn to Britain's Labour Party, and looks how Armenia's defeat of Azerbaijan has given its veterans outsized power.

  • Universe Today notes proposals for colonizing Mercury, looks at strong support in Hawaii for a new telescope, and examines the progenitor star of SN 1987A.

  • Wired emphasizes the importance of nuclear weapons and deterrence for Donald Trump, and looks at how many cities around the world have transformed their rivers.

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  • The Atlantic notes how some Americans are dealing with an invasive species, the lionfish: by hunting and eating them.

  • Bloomberg notes that the Ukrainian prime minister resigned as a result of the Panama Papers.

  • Bloomberg View notes the creation, in Russia, of a military force directly under the president.

  • CBC notes the report of an Uber driver in Ottawa that he only made eight dollars an hour after costs, and considers whether Canada might be obliged to provide First Nations children with education in their languages.

  • The Conversation notes the sophistication and lasting power of Australian Aborigines' star maps.

  • NOW Toronto notes divisions among the NDP's young members as to what to do with Mulcair.

  • The Toronto Star notes the need for Mulcair to get approval from a large enough majority of NDP delegates.

  • The Dragon's Tales linked to this War is Boring article arguing that a Japan armed with nuclear weapons would have made things much worse.

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In his post "That time I was nearly burned alive by a machine-learning model and didn’t even notice for 33 years", Yorkshire Ranter Alex Harrowell writes about how subtle issue with Soviet computer models of Western behaviour nearly started a nuclear war in the early 1980s. Starting principles, it seems, must be carefully examined.

We already knew about Operation RYAN, the Yuri Andropov-inspired maximum effort search for intelligence offering strategic warning of a putative Western preventive war against the Soviet Union, and that it intersected dangerously with the war scare of 1983. We also knew that part of it was something to do with an effort to assess the intelligence take using some sort of computer system, but not in any detail. A lot more documents have just been declassified, and it turns out that the computer element was not just a detail, but absolutely central to RYAN.

At the end of the 1970s the USSR was at the zenith of its power, but the KGB leadership especially were anxious about the state of the economy and about the so-called scientific-technological revolution, the equivalent of the Revolution in Military Affairs concept in the US. As a result, they feared that once the US regained a substantial advantage it would attack. The answer was to develop an automated system to predict when this might happen and what the key indicators were.

Model the whole problem as a system of interconnected linear programming problems. They said. Load up the data. They said. Comrades, let’s optimise. They said.

In all, the RYAN model used some 40,000 data points, most of which were collected by greatly increased KGB and Joint GRU field activity. It generated a numerical score between 0 and 100. Higher was better – above 70 peace was probable, whereas below 60 it was time to worry. The problem was the weighting applied to each of those parameters. Clearly, they had to train the model against some existing data set, and the one they chose was Nazi Germany in the run-up to Operation BARBAROSSA.

Who needs theory? They said. We’ve got the data. They said. A simple matter of programming. They said.
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Civil defense siren, Dundas and Shaw


In May 2013, I posted a brief note about this Cold War-era nuclear alert siren at Dundas West and Shaw, near the northwesternmost corner of Trinity Bellwoods Park. Late last week, Chris Bateman at Spacing wrote about that siren's history.

At Dundas West and Shaw, near Trinity-Bellwoods Park, there’s a conspicuous piece of Canada’s Cold War history.

On top of a 15-metre pole sits a massive electric air raid siren. Disconnected long ago, it’s one of just a handful of relics left over from when Toronto and the rest of Canada was seriously concerned about being caught up in a nuclear war between the United States and the USSR.

The idea of a peacetime, nationwide air raid alert system started in earnest in 1951, when the federal government under prime minister Louis St. Laurent commissioned 200 of electric, two-tone sirens from Scarborough company Canadian Line Materials, Ltd..

Provincial secretary Arthur Welsh said a co-ordinated system of sirens within the larger Greater Toronto Area would help in the event of a nuclear attack. “A bomb is not a respecter of municipal boundaries,” he said in 1951, adding that there was no plan to evacuate towns and cities in advance of an attack.

“Many people think some welfare organization would evacuate them, where they would be fed and clothed. That is not the case. In the past two wars, when soldiers in the trenches were attacked by mortar, they stayed and fought it out. That’s what we will do.”
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Far Outliers' Joel shares a passage from the book Tennozan: The Battle of Okinawa and the Atomic Bomb describing the devastation visited on Okinawa. This, he suggests, explains why the bomb was used.

The battle was the turning point in modern history. That first operation on Japanese soil—Okinawa was politically part of Japan to which it reverted in 1972—was also the last battle before the start of the atomic age. Without the essential facts, it is impossible to understand the decision, made some six weeks after the campaign ended, to use the atomic bomb.

Although no precise assessment of the rights and wrongs of that decision is likely to be made, the debate deserves to be conducted with evidence as well as emotion. The deep revulsion still provoked by the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is of course wholly appropriate. But it is difficult to evaluate the destruction of those cities out of context, without the knowledge that Okinawan civilians, not to mention the fighting men of both armies there, endured worse. The best estimate of the dead in the two obliterated cities is around 200,000. The Okinawan campaign killed fewer noncombatants, some 150,000. But the total number of dead, including servicemen, was significantly higher. And conventional explosives on the island caused far greater damage to Okinawan tradition, culture and well-being than the atomic bombs did to the Japanese. Measure by sheer suffering as well as by devastation of national life, the battle of Okinawa was a greater tragedy. And had the war progressed to the Japanese mainland, the next battleground after Okinawa, the damage would have been incomparable.

I mention this at the start not to stake a claim in some ghoulish competition to crown the greatest catastrophe, but to point out that the Okinawan suffering has never been recognized; proportionately far smaller losses to Japan and America always prompted much greater sorrow. This book was conceived as an account of the fighting men's ordeal that never won rightful gratitude in America. I hope it will convey a hint of the immense exertion, terror, agony and carnage in that battle. But nonmilitary issues that emerged during the course of my research pushed me toward a larger story.

Okinawans' punishment and suffering continue to this day as a direct result of that conflict, although they, the accommodating, exceptionally peaceful islanders, were among its chief victims then. That was one of the war's plentiful ironies—or inevitable consequences: the weakest and poorest usually bear the greatest burdens.
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Bloomberg's Sam Kim reports on South Korean survivors of the bombing of Hiroshima and their issues.

The nuclear bomb detonated as a 16-year-old girl sat in a shanty town cradling her baby, waiting for her mother to return from selling candy.

With Hiroshima in flames behind her on Aug. 6, 1945, the teen raced up a mountain to safety. Her mother, burnt from head to toe, died about 10 days later.

Baek Du Yi, now 86, was Korean. With food scarce at home under Japanese occupation, her family had gone by boat to Japan about 10 years earlier. After the war she returned to her husband’s town of Hapcheon, a farming community known as “Korea’s Hiroshima” where about 600 survivors reside. The town in the southeast of what is now South Korea accounts for nearly a quarter of the Korean survivors of Japan’s nuclear blasts.

While Baek and her family were in Hiroshima out of economic necessity, many of the estimated 2 million Koreans in Japan in 1945 had been forced by their colonizers to work or serve in the Japanese army. That period still looms over how Japan and South Korea view each other, and keeps interaction between their leaders in a deep freeze.

“We wouldn’t have been in Hiroshima had Japan not colonized us, and we wouldn’t have been bombed had Japan not attacked the U.S.,” Baek said through tears at a shelter for survivors in the town. “Before the bombing, the Japanese treated me like an inferior, and after I returned home Koreans shunned me as if I had a genetic defect.”
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The National Post carried Faiz Siddiqui's Washington Post article describing a bonsai tree now nearly four centuries old that survived 1945.

Moses Weisberg was walking his bicycle through the National Arboretum in Northeast Washington when he stopped at a mushroom-shaped tree. The first thing he noticed was the thickness of the trunk, estimated at almost a foot and a half in diameter. And then there was the abundance of spindly leaves, a healthy head of hair for a botanical relic 390 years old.

But it was only when he learned the full history of the tree, a Japanese white pine donated in 1976, that he was truly stunned. The tree, a part of the Arboretum’s National Bonsai and Penjing Museum, has not only navigated the perils of age to become the collection’s oldest; it survived the blast of an atomic bomb, Little Boy, dropped over Hiroshima, Japan, during the Second World War.

“For one, it’s amazing to think that something could have survived an atomic blast,” said Weisberg, a 26-year-old student at the Georgetown University Law Center. “And then that by some happenstance a Japanese tree from the 1600s ended up here.”

The bonsai tree’s history is being honoured this week, as Thursday marks the 70th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing. But visitors can see the tree as part of the museum’s permanent collection throughout the year.

The tree, donated by a bonsai master named Masaru Yamaki, was part of a 53-specimen gift to the United States for its 1976 bicentennial. Little was known about the tree until March 8, 2001, when — with no advance notice — two brothers visiting from Japan showed up at the museum to check on their grandfather’s tree.
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  • blogTO notes that some Toronto-area Starbucks will now feature wine and beer options.

  • Gerry Canavan has his own massive post of links.
  • Centauri Dreams looks at the promise of a NASA mission to Europa.

  • The Dragon's Gaze links to a paper suggesting that compact exoplanetary systems are common around red dwarf stars.

  • The Dragon's Tales reports on an extinct South American rodent, Josephoartigasia monesi, that used its giant teeth as elephants used their tusks.

  • Joe. My. God. notes that the Harlem home of Neil Patrick Harris and his husband David Burtka has been profiled by Architectural Digest.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes an unintentionally hilarious 1914 book aiming to curtail the spread of lesbianism.

  • The Planetary Society Blog shares pictures from the Indian Mars probe featuring rare views of that world's moon Deimos and shares the New Horizons probe's first pictures of Pluto.

  • Peter Rukavina talks about podcasts.

  • Spacing Toronto shares descriptions of the fallout shelters built into a Toronto subdivision's homes.

  • Strange Maps notes the many maps of the world of The Man in the High Castle.

  • Torontoist looks at the local measles outbreak.

  • Towleroad notes a Russian group that plans to out teachers.

  • Window on Eurasia argues that arming Ukraine would help stabilize the situation and suggests there are alternatives to Putin.

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  • blogTO shares ten interesting facts about Scarborough.

  • The Dragon's Gaze looks at orbits where two or more objects can share a path.

  • The Dragon's Tales reports on Lockheed's allegedly promising plan for near-term fusion reactors.

  • Eastern Approaches notes concerns about media bias in Slovakian print media.

  • Geocurrents notes how recent events show that Ukraine does not cleave neatly into pro- and anti-Russian halves.

  • Joe. My. God. observes that the Micronesian state of Palau has decriminalized homosexuality.

  • Language Hat looks at the history of how fonts get their names.

  • Marginal Revolution notes the arguably stagnant and over-regulated labour market of France.

  • James Nicoll has announced his ongoing effort, to commemorate the Cuban missile crisis, to review books on nuclear war.

  • The Planetary Society Blog's Emily Lakdawalla notes that astronomers have found a second small Kuiper belt object for the New Horizons probe to survey.

  • Spacing Toronto blogs about the demographic and economic challenges of millennials in Canadian cities.

  • Towleroad looks at problems with gay intimacy visibility on American television.

  • Window on Eurasia considers tensions over migration in post-Soviet Russia.

  • The World notes the devastating impact on living standards of the Greek recession.

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This civil defense siren, slightly relocated east to its current location at Dundas and Shaw, just across Dundas from the northwestern corner of Trinity Bellwoods Park, is one of the last sirens remaining and a noteworthy artifact of the Cold War. In 2007, the Toronto Star published an article by Leslie Scrivener about it and the few others left.

"It's a neat thing to look at," says Claire Bryden, referring to the air raid siren near the corner of Dundas St. W. and Shaw St., a remnant of Toronto's age of atomic anxiety. The sturdy, horn-shaped siren rests on a rusting column on the property of Bellwoods Centres for Community Living.

Few of these Cold War relics, which would alert the population to an imminent nuclear attack, remain in Toronto. One siren resides atop the York Quay Centre at Harbourfront. Others, like the one on Ward's Island, disappear when buildings get new roofs.

Today, no one claims ownership of the surviving sirens. Call the City of Toronto and they refer you to the province. Call the province and they refer you to the Department of National Defence. Call the Department of National Defence and they refer you to ... the city.

But Claire Bryden is happy to take possession of the one at Dundas and Shaw. Bryden is executive-director of the Bellwoods Centres, which provide homes for people with physical disabilities. The air raid siren, overlooked for decades, suddenly became of interest during construction of a new building. Because it was in the middle of the Bellwoods Park House property, which straddles old Garrison Creek (now flowing through an underground culvert), the siren had to be moved or removed altogether. A new public path, part of a Discovery Walk daytime urban trail from Fort York to Christie Pits, will go through the property right where the siren was.

What to do with the towering artifact? "Rather than throw it away, we decided it's a piece of historical memorabilia," says Bryden, who recalls air-raid-siren practice in her childhood. "It gives character, and we don't see too many around."


Civil defense siren, Dundas and Shaw
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  • The Burgh Diaspora notes that, in different American cities, efforts are being made to promote local educational and medical institutions. Some cities may do better than others.

  • Centauri Dreams' Paul Gilster notes an astronomer who thinks that Earth-like planets--roughly Earth-size with broadly Earth-like environments--may be commoner around red dwarf stars than thought.

  • Crooked Timber's Corey Robin notes the uncontested presence of racist and oligarchic John C. Calhoun's thinking on the American right.

  • Geocurrents maps, after evangelical Christians, their different missionary efforts around the world.

  • At Lawyers, Guns and Money, Scott Lemieux links approvingly to Mark Tushnet, who argues that of course the American government can't make ultimately definitive statements about when American military force can be used.

  • The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer observes that senates aren't popular anywhere in the world, it seems, but that the United States actually has a constitutional bar against abolishing its upper house.

  • The Population Reference Bureau's blog notes that the American metropolitan areas that experienced the strongest population growth are the ones with strong private job markets and federal funding.

  • Torontoist's Patrick Metzger notes that there was never a Cold War-era nuclear shelter beneath Queen's Park. Rather, it was in Aurora.

  • Towleroad reports that the National Organization on Marriage has just insulted two American supreme court judges by stating that the adoption that constituted their families is a second-best option next to natural procreation.

  • The Volokh Conspiracy's Ilya Somin argues that good arguments exist for the American Supreme Court to repudiate the court decision legitimizing the deportation of Japanese-Americans in the Second World War.

  • Chechen pressures on Ingushetia to merge with the Chechen republic, Window on Eurasia argues, have been enabled by the Putin regime's desire to consolidate Russia's federal units.

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  • Cosmic Variance's Sean Carroll considers the implications of the recent declaration on the existence of animal consciousness.

  • Crooked Timber's Chris Bertram considers the ethical implications of restrictive immigration policies on the part of countries whose past actions--carbon dioxide pollution, or anti-drug wars--have created large numbers of potential migrants.

  • Daniel Drezner doesn't like arguments advanced by the likes of Thomas Friedman that Chinese holdings of American sovereign debt gives China power over the United States. It doesn't, at least not the sort of power that--when used--wouldn't hurt China more than the United States.

  • Eastern Approaches notes Bulgaria's decision to postpone Euro adoption, made in light of the ongoing crisis.

  • Far Outliers concludes its conclusions from Prussian history book The Iron Kingdom with one conluding that in 1945, the Western powers believed that Prussia had to be destroyed to end German militarism, the Soviets--perhaps remarkably--coming to this conclusion later.

  • A brief post by Razib Khan at GNXP notes that India is so much larger than Pakistan, proper cross-national (and intra-national) comparisons in South Asia would be better taken to use Indian states rather than India as a whole.

  • Progressive Download's John Farrell notes, after T. Ryan Gregory, the importance of distinguishing between evolution as a theory and evolution as a fact.

  • At The Power and the Money, Douglas Muir agrees with a recent International Crisis Group analysis arghuing that the likely medium-term outcome in Syria is not the overthrow of Assad, but ratehr the devolution of his government into a warlord regime unresponsive to the sorts of incentives states normally respond to.

  • At The Signal, Susan Manus interviews a historian who has been trying to recover electronic work by Rent composer Jonathan Larson, saved in archaic formats and old programs.

  • A Torontoist posting explores Torontonians' reaction to the risk of nuclear attack int he early Cold War.

  • Eugene Volokh, at The Volokh Conspiracy, mourns the decision of Israel's Egged bus company to respond to attacks by Jerusalem-area Ultra-Orthodox on advertisements featuring women and Israeli human-rights legislation limiting misogyny by dropping advertising featuring human beings.

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  • Centauri Dreams' Paul Gilster raises the possibility of bringing an asteroid into lunar orbit, for scientific and space-settlement purposes both.

  • Daniel Drezner is pleasantly surprised that the situation of Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng hasn't led to anything like a breakdown of Sino-American relations.

  • Eastern Approaches notes the Polish holiday of "Flag Day" on the 2nd of May, commemorating the substantial Polish participation in the conquest of Berlin in 1945.

  • Far Outliers' Joel discusses the Canary Islands and the role they played in the emerging imperium, both vis-a-vis Portugal and the later imperial strategies of unified Spain.

  • Geocurrents describes the Sino-Soviet border disputes in eastern Siberia in 1969 that killed hundreds of people, nearly led to a Sino-Soviet war, and played a critical role in deciding the future of the world.

  • Language Hat starts a discussion about the depressing plight of non-Russian languages inside Russia that quickly expands to include discussions of Turkish immigrants in Russia, the situation of Gaelic in Ireland, and Canada's own language situation.

  • Laywers, Guns and Money reviews a book describing how environmentalism in the Colorado ski resort of Aspen helps to legitimate anti-immigrant sentiment.

  • At NewAPPSBlog, Mohan Matthen makes the contrarian argument--compelling, but I think ultimately incorrect--that a "Oui" outcome in the 1995 Québec referendum would have been good for Québec and rump Canada both.

  • Yorkshire Ranter Alexander Harrowell discusses the consequences of Bo Xilai's wiretapping of other officials in China, in the context of ubiquitous state surveillance generally.
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British/American historian Niall Ferguson is a very smart and deservedly well-recognized man who has written many things worth paying attention to because they are wise about globalization, and many things that will be paid attention to on account of their potentially terrible consequences in the direction of imperialisms past and present. Ferguson's explicit invocation of "Eurabia", for instance, lent that poisonous concept mainstream credibility. Writing at Lawyers, Guns and Money, Scott Lemieux made the case that Ferguson's latest Newsweek column, "Israel and Iran on the Eve of Destruction in a New Six-Day War", is another example of this type.

It probably felt a bit like this in the months before the Six-Day War of 1967, when Israel launched its hugely successful preemptive strike against Egypt and its allies. Forty-five years later, the little country that is the most easterly outpost of Western civilization has Iran in its sights.


Beginning his essay defending an Israeli attack on Iran by explicitly defining Israel as "the most easterly outpost of Western civilization" is a dog whistle to a certain subset of his readers, right?

Anyhow. The central point of Lemieux's analysis, that Ferguson's arguments are unserious in that his conclusions (an attack on Iran would be a good thing) could be made to suit any number of interpretations. (Writes Lemieux, "One can start with his inability to decide whether a war would create a massive spike in oil prices or not (whether a “Saudi spike” will mostly cover things depends on what argument he’s making at the time.)") I find Ferguson's argument that the Iranian government isn't an adherent to realpolitik and is uninterested in the survival of the Iranian nation-state more problematic, resting on a partial and inaccurate view of Iranian actions; Ferguson would have done much better to question the viability of an Iranian-Israeli nuclear standoff, given that other nuclear-armed dyads of states (India and Pakistan, for one) have come quite close to nuclear war.

And then, there's Ferguson's final sentence: "It feels like the eve of some creative destruction." Surely the time to joke about potential military catastrophe in the Middle East is not our time?

Yes, yes, Ferguson wrote all this in an article for The Daily Beast. One can legitimately question whether anything written there on foreign policy, or anything else, should be taken seriously. But then one should also wonder why someone wanting to be taken seriously would publish there.

Despite all this, I still like Ferguson. He writes well on many subjects of interest to me. It's just, well, why is he doing this?

This weekend's [FORUM] question I put to you: what do you do when the public intellectuals you like, for their style and/or their content, go and make arguments or political statements or demonstrate a terrible lack of judgment? Do you, like me, try to find ways to engage selectively? Is it enough to trigger a break?

Discuss.
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The title of Alex Harrowell's post at the Yorkshire Ranter is actually quite apropos, inasmuch as it deals with the potential catastrophe wrought by India's Cold Start strategic doctrine, which would see time/space-limited military assaults against Pakistan with the aim of fighting a conventional war despite the nuclear weaponization of both parties. This can backfire, by causing the Pakistani military to institute policies which would make nuclear escalation quite easy.

In the light of this, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the Indian military preparations are simply unwise – in a classic post at Arms Control Wonk, Michael Krepon discusses why Pakistan is continuing to build more nuclear weapons and concludes that the factors at work are as follows. First of all, Indian leaders’ public statements are threatening – to use cold-war terminology, although their military planning is moving towards “flexible response”, their declaratory policy contains a lot of “massive retaliation”. The combination is toxic. Trying to make the conventional forces more usable is potentially provocative. Statements about nuclear strategy like this one, combined with faster response times, begin to look a lot like an offensive doctrine:

The Indian Chief of Army Staff, S. Padmanabhan, sang the same tune – that if Pakistan resorted to first use, “the perpetrator of that particular outrage shall be punished so severely that their continuation thereafter in any form will be doubtful.”


Secondly, although nuclear weapons cost a lot to acquire in the first place, they get much cheaper once the programme has been capitalised and the process industrialised. This was a major theme in the high cold war – the original Manhattan Project was designed to scale up to five bombs a month, achieved that ahead of schedule, and in fact scaled even further. Also, they are often considered cheap in terms of their strategic value. Nukes scare people; Pakistan will never be an industrial power like India, but now it has the production line going, it certainly can add more bombs and more target packages faster than the Indian economy can grow. Krepon makes the interesting point that the limiting factor isn’t the nukes so much as the delivery systems – a country like North Korea can build a nuclear device of sorts, and Pakistan can run a bomb factory, but only a fully diversified industrial economy can make the aeroplane or the missile to carry them.

This has certain consequences for the Pakistani strategic targeting plan. In comments at ACW, someone asks whether they might be thinking of making use of man- or at least vehicle-portable weapons, the famous suitcase nukes. Another, slightly less terror-licious point about this is how the Pakistan Air Force is operating. If they have plenty of bombs but relatively few aircraft, they have to preserve the strike-force (the P-Force, perhaps, by analogy with the 1960s RAF V-Force) at all costs. This implies putting as many planes as possible on quick-reaction alert, dispersing them early in a crisis with the weapons, and keeping open the option of dispersing them in Afghanistan. (We may now begin to see why they care so much.) It also suggests that it would be very difficult to target anything in the Pakistan Air Force without threatening the nuclear assets, and that they might be keen to use tactical nuclear weapons – it’s a relatively cheap substitute for a much bigger army, and (as NATO found out in the high cold war) if you have more and more atom bombs hanging about, pure bureaucratic logic tends to get them assigned to targets.

This is a special case of the principle that mayhem is easy and order is difficult, of course.


Harrowell notes that India recognizes the problems of this doctrine and is unlikely to implement it, inasmuch as Cold Start takes a while to start up and the Indians are aware of its serious problems. Nevertheless, this speaks to the fundamental, paradoxical strength of Pakistan, that the state is so weak that few want to do anything that could tip the country over into chaos. If sanctions against Pakistan were imposed after another Pakistan-sponsored terrorist attack (as the author mentions), what would happen to the nuclear weapons once the country's economy collapsed?
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It has become increasingly clear we are so very, very lucky we didn't fight a war in the 1980s when world arsenals were at their peaks. This is bad enough.

Even a regional nuclear war could spark "unprecedented" global cooling and reduce rainfall for years, according to U.S. government computer models.

Widespread famine and disease would likely follow, experts speculate.

During the Cold War a nuclear exchange between superpowers—such as the one feared for years between the United States and the former Soviet Union—was predicted to cause a "nuclear winter."

In that scenario hundreds of nuclear explosions spark huge fires, whose smoke, dust, and ash blot out the sun for weeks amid a backdrop of dangerous radiation levels. Much of humanity eventually dies of starvation and disease.

Today, with the United States the only standing superpower, nuclear winter is little more than a nightmare. But nuclear war remains a very real threat—for instance, between developing-world nuclear powers, such as India and Pakistan.

To see what climate effects such a regional nuclear conflict might have, scientists from NASA and other institutions modeled a war involving a hundred Hiroshima-level bombs, each packing the equivalent of 15,000 tons of TNT—just 0.03 percent of the world's current nuclear arsenal.

The researchers predicted the resulting fires would kick up roughly five million metric tons of black carbon into the upper part of the troposphere, the lowest layer of the Earth's atmosphere.

In NASA climate models, this carbon then absorbed solar heat and, like a hot-air balloon, quickly lofted even higher, where the soot would take much longer to clear from the sky.

The global cooling caused by these high carbon clouds wouldn't be as catastrophic as a superpower-versus-superpower nuclear winter, but "the effects would still be regarded as leading to unprecedented climate change," research physical scientist Luke Oman said during a press briefing Friday at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C.

Earth is currently in a long-term warming trend. After a regional nuclear war, though, average global temperatures would drop by 2.25 degrees F (1.25 degrees C) for two to three years afterward, the models suggest.

At the extreme, the tropics, Europe, Asia, and Alaska would cool by 5.4 to 7.2 degrees F (3 to 4 degrees C), according to the models. Parts of the Arctic and Antarctic would actually warm a bit, due to shifted wind and ocean-circulation patterns, the researchers said.

After ten years, average global temperatures would still be 0.9 degree F (0.5 degree C) lower than before the nuclear war, the models predict.


The effects on agriculture would be catastrophe. One, two, three, many Tamboras?

Go, read.
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Today's the 65th anniversary of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima; and amazingly, the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the only ones ever used in war. It's a minor miracle, considering the obscene overdevelopment of the Cold War arsenals, based as they must have been on the obvious truisms of the need for New Zealand and Charlottetown to die in a general conflagration. Many countries have given up nuclear weapons of their own will; many countries have decided to abandon their programs; nearly every state actor supports the idea of further cut-backs in the arsenals, with the idea of unilateral disarmament being raised (I've heard it particularly in the United Kingdom in relations to the Trident submarine leg of the arsenal).

Will this continue? I wonder. If, at some point, nuclear weapons stop being seen as "harbingers of the apocalypse" and start being seen as "really large bombs," then, along with the cutback in arsenals to manageable numbers and the growth of workable an ti-missile systems, nuclear war in--say--2030 might be plausible in a way that it simply wasn't in 1980, all things being equal.

Thoughts?
rfmcdonald: (Default)
This news isn't surprising, given the intensity of the Sino-Soviet border disputes/conflicts of 1969. The Nixon-Kissinger reaction likewise isn't a surprise.

Liu Chenshan, the author of a series of articles that chronicle the five times China has faced a nuclear threat since 1949, wrote that the most serious threat came in 1969 at the height of a bitter border dispute between Moscow and Beijing that left more than one thousand people dead on both sides.

He said Soviet diplomats warned Washington of Moscow's plans "to wipe out the Chinese threat and get rid of this modern adventurer," with a nuclear strike, asking the US to remain neutral.

But, he says, Washington told Moscow the United States would not stand idly by but launch its own nuclear attack against the Soviet Union if it attacked China, loosing nuclear missiles at 130 Soviet cities. The threat worked, he added, and made Moscow think twice, while forcing the two countries to regulate their border dispute at the negotiating table.

He quotes Soviet ministers and diplomats at the time to bolster his claim.

On 15 October 1969, he quotes Soviet premier Alexei Kosygin as telling Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev that Washington has drawn up "detailed plans" for a nuclear war against the USSR if it attacked China.

"[The United States] has clearly indicated that China's interests are closely related to theirs and they have mapped out detailed plans for nuclear war against us," Kosygin is said to have told Brezhnev.

That same day he says Anatoly Dobrynin, the Soviet ambassador to Washington, told Brezhnev something similar after consultations with US diplomats. "If China suffers a nuclear attack, they (the Americans) will deem it as the start of the third world war," Dobrynin said. "The Americans have betrayed us."

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