Apr 18th 2010

Scorecard for the Nuclear Summit

by Amitai Etzioni

Amitai Etzioni served as a Senior Advisor to the Carter White House; taught at Columbia University, Harvard, University of California at Berkeley, and is a University Professor at The George Washington University. He served as the President of the American Sociological Association, and he founded the Communitarian Network. A study by Richard Posner ranked him among the top 100 American intellectuals. He is the author of numerous op-eds and his voice is frequently heard in the media. He is the author of several books, including The Active Society, Genetic Fix, The Moral Dimension, The New Golden Rule, and My Brother’s Keeper. His latest book Security First: For a Muscular, Moral Foreign Policy was published by Yale University Press in the Spring of 2007. His regular blog is Amitai Etzioni Notes.

In 2007 I joined with several others who spent many years studying nuclear arms to form a mini consensus of the opinion that the greatest threat to our security, that of our allies, and the world, was the combination of terrorists and nukes. To quote, "The White House, Congress, and the media have focused heavily on the so-called Axis of Evil when dealing with WMD in general and nukes in particular. Since the introduction of this term, attention has been focused on three rogue states: North Korea, Iran, and Saddam's Iraq. The 2003 invasion of Iraq, justified initially to prevent Iraq from using or acquiring further WMD, sharpened this focus. As I see it, the combination of terrorism and nuclear weapons poses a graver threat to international security" : (Security First, P220). The White House, President Obama's newly released Nuclear Posture Review, and this week's summit have shifted the focus from strategic weapons left over from the days of the Cold War (at the center of attention until and including last week) to where it belongs: to terrorists getting their hands on nukes or the materials from which they can be made.

To evaluate the outcomes of the summit, here are the hotspots that should be covered, but are not necessarily the ones that will be addressed:

1. One of the most likely places terrorists are may get what they would consider their dream ticket -- and hence our nightmare -- is Russia. Russia has somewhere between 3,000 and 15,000 (estimates vary) small tactical nuclear bombs. These are much less well guarded than the strategic big bombs. Moreover they are positioned much closer to Russia's borders -- including those with Muslim republics -- than most of the strategic ones. No treaty covers them. So far there is no sign that these arms will be even discussed during the summit.

2. Next is Pakistan. It has an unstable government and strong anti-American insurgency groups which find allies in some of the nation's forces, especially the notorious ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence). The Pakistani government has rejected many American efforts to help it to better guard these arms, fearing that the United States may grab them if the Taliban and their allies take over. Let's see what the summit will do about this major challenge.

In reaction to a very unwise American policy to expand India's nuclear program, Pakistan in effect is expanding its own. So far there is no indication that this thorny issue will be faced during the summit.

3. The third source of trouble is the considerable amounts of plutonium, highly enriched uranium, and radioactive waste that lie around in many parts of the world, from Chile to South Africa. This is the area in which we are making good progress. The U.S. does underwrite a global drive to neutralize these materials one way or another. President Obama wisely calls for accelerating this process. It is likely to get much attention during the summit, which is like focusing on low lying fruit. They deserved to be harvested as long as progress here does not deflect attention from those much harder to reach.

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More Current Affairs

Sep 21st 2019
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Sep 16th 2019
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Sep 12th 2019
Extract: "The Republican Party has lashed its fate to an increasingly unhinged leader. Though three other presidential hopefuls for 2020 now stand in Trump’s way, none can defeat him. But they can damage his reelection effort, which is why the Republican Party has been scrapping some primaries and caucuses. How well Trump does in November next year may well depend on how his fragile ego withstands the coming months."
Sep 2nd 2019
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Aug 29th 2019
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Aug 28th 2019
EXTRACT: "Reminiscent of Don Quixote, Trump is tilting at windmills. His administration is flailing at antiquated perceptions of the Old China that only compound the problems it claims to be addressing. Financial markets are starting to get a sense that something is awry. So, too, is the Federal Reserve. Meanwhile, the global economy is fraying at the edges. The US has never been an oasis in such treacherous periods. I doubt if this time is any different. 
Aug 24th 2019
EXTRACT: "In fact, with firms in the US, Europe, China, and other parts of Asia having reined in capital expenditures, the global tech, manufacturing, and industrial sector is already in a recession. The only reason why that hasn’t yet translated into a global slump is that private consumption has remained strong. Should the price of imported goods rise further as a result of any of these negative supply shocks, real (inflation-adjusted) disposable household income growth would take a hit, as would consumer confidence, likely tipping the global economy into a recession."
Aug 21st 2019
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Aug 20th 2019
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Aug 19th 2019
EXTRACTS: "Back in May, a jury found Patrick Syring, a former State Department official, guilty of 14 counts of making threats against my life and my staff at the Arab American Institute. This week, a federal judge sentenced Syring to five years in prison to be followed by three years of court-ordered probation.................It gives me no pleasure to see this man going to jail for a long period, but it does provide us all with a sense of enormous relief. I've been threatened before. My wife, my children, and I have received death threats for the past 50 years – owing to my advocacy for Palestinian rights and the rights of the Arab American community. My office was fire-bombed and an Arab American colleague, whom I hired, was murdered. Two individuals who, in the past, made death threats against me and my children were convicted and sentenced to prison terms. But this case was different."
Aug 15th 2019
EXTRACT: "Gaslighting typically refers to intimate relationships. It’s a way of controlling someone by creating false narratives – for example, that they are irrational or crazy. If such lies are repeated constantly, victims may get confused and start believing there really is something wrong with them. Confusion, diversion, distraction and disinformation can similarly be used to gaslight an entire society. So how can you tell if you are being gaslighted, and how do you avoid it in the first place?"
Aug 14th 2019
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Aug 5th 2019
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Jul 31st 2019
Extract: "I admire the US for its culture, entrepreneurialism, and universities, and I have many American friends. Furthermore, I know how grateful the rest of the world has to be for US leadership after World War II. Never before had a victorious power behaved so generously toward others, including the defeated. We owe so much to US policy in the second half of the twentieth century. But although I am no declinist regarding American economic, intellectual, and military power, the country’s soft power has certainly decreased, and its positive influence around the world has declined. The reason for this is simple: US President Donald Trump is a bad man surrounded by a bad team of incompetent and dangerous ideologues."
Jul 30th 2019
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Jul 30th 2019
Extract: "......the day before Mueller testified, the current FBI director, Christopher Wray, told the Senate Judiciary Committee, “The Russians are absolutely intent on trying to interfere with our elections.” And the day after Mueller testified, the Senate Intelligence Committee issued a report stating that Russia would be involved in the next presidential election, and that countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran, and China have the capacity to interfere in US elections as well. Despite these warnings, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked Senate consideration of two bills aimed at strengthening US election security,....."
Jul 15th 2019
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Jul 6th 2019
Extract: ".........growing poverty even when working, the collapse of stable and safe social identities linked to work, the increasing instability of employment security, and the rapid change of local communities due to emigration, migration, collapsing housing affordability, and redevelopment initiatives that displace communities. These provide precise and urgent electoral rallying points. They are particularly effective given that so many mainstream politicians ignore these basic grievances. In recent years, the lineup of politicians opposing the New Right – Hillary Clinton, the Remain campaign, Emmanuel Macron and Matteo Renzi – have been unwilling to even recognise these structural problems. This provided the New Right the opportunity to appear credible, simply by acknowledging them."
Jul 6th 2019
".........an openly Russophilic administration in the US may be one reason why Putin’s domestic support has been declining so sharply."
Jul 3rd 2019
"Extract: .........in a world of rapidly expanding automation potential, demographic shrinkage is largely a boon, not a threat. Our expanding ability to automate human work across all sectors – agriculture, industry, and services – makes an ever-growing workforce increasingly irrelevant to improvements in human welfare. Conversely, automation makes it impossible to achieve full employment in countries still facing rapid population growth........The greatest demographic challenges therefore lie not in countries facing population stabilization and then gradual decline, but in Africa, which still faces rapid population growth."