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July 10, 2006

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» Leaving Well Enough Alone from Andrew Olmsted dot com
In a move that should not have surprised anyone, China has stated its opposition to sanctions against North Korea. While this move may have been necessary for us to demonstrate support for our allies, Japan and South Korea, it seems... [Read More]

Comments

Welcome to the rumpus, Andrew.

Welcome and good luck.

Welcome aboard. Good first post.

I think what we're usually talking about here - at least every time I've seen this topic come up - is a leader who is crazy to the point of being suicidal... that is, a leader who cannot be deterred by the threat of mutually assured destruction. I think most people would agree that Kim Jong Il is nutty by any reasonable standard, but the question is whether he's so nutty he'd launch an attack that would guarantee his own annihilation. That's a pretty high bar for nuttiness, which is why Yglesias suggests that the "madman" is more rhetoric than theory.

Lots of actions taken by world leaders may be foolish, unhinged, or deranged - Saddam's invasion of Iran and Kuwait, the U.S. invasion of Iraq, etc. - but few of them are irrational in the sense that a threat that would normally deter attack (nuclear weapons, for example) fails to do so.

Welcome, Andrew!

If you've time, inclination, and patience I'd be interested in hearing about your military career. Dunno if others are curious, but color me so.

True Meaning of Missiles of July ...Bill Arkin, WaPo, on NK

"The missile then is alarming not just because of who owns it: To launch that missile takes just a push of a button. A push of a button and defenses are breached and indiscriminate destruction arrives unannounced from the sky. The very ease of its use is its attractiveness: Even the "irrational" North understands this, hence its pursuit of an instrument that allows attacks that signify something less than war." ...Arkin

Now if I am understanding Arkin correctly, in this and the paragraph preceding Arkin is saying that considering all the circumstances a North Korean nuclear missile landing on LA would not automatically mean a total shooting war. And that this is why Kim and Iran want nuclear missiles and why they are so scarey and unacceptable.

Quite logical and sane. If the use guaranteed the destruction of NK or Iran, then they certainly would have no reason to want nuclear-tipped missiles. Therefore the use does not guarantee destruction.

Okay? The ugly secret of the Cold War is that MAD wasn't true, and limited exchanges were always on the table.

Greetings from a lifelong pacifist (with more than a few friends who served/are serving in the military).

I particularly enjoyed Diane's comment regarding the sanity of Operation Iraqi Freedom in the open thread, and that seems like a good place to illustrate the point. I'll certainly agree that OIF was a mistake (full disclosure: I didn't think so at the time), but it doesn't seem like an insane mistake to me, likely because I was for it before I was against it and therefore understand some of the logic that could have gone into that decision. I think we should have stayed out of Iraq, but I don't think that advocating the invasion per se makes one insane.

Well, no, because I don't think Bush & co are insane, but I did agree with Diane that invading Iraq for the reasons Bush originally gave was an insane decision. Justifying the invasion of Iraq by the al-Qaeda terrorist attack on September 11 was as nutty as the man who looks for his car keys under the lamp post because there's more light there.

Welcome; and great post.

Welcome!

Re "insane" leaders:

I blame TV. When a scriptwriter needs somebody to do something that no normal person would do, just make him "insane". A TV "insane" person will do whatever the plot requires. In the Real World (tm), insanity follows certain predictable patterns (see any abnormal psych textbook). In TV and movies, it doesn't.

An even easier scriptwriter's gimmick is to make a character "Eeeevil". Nobody really thinks of himself as "evil". Hitler thought of himself as a German patriot; Stalin did what he thought needed to be done to bring the Soviet Union into the industrial age.

Unfortunately, a lot of people (hypothesis: including people in power) think that bad scriptwriting represents reality.

Agreed -- definitely an excellent post and lots of food for thought.

I think you make an excellent point about the rationales for invasion, and how they were compelling to you at the time that you supported the action. My trajectory was more 'cautiously noncommittal, growing into opposition as more information came to light' but it's close enough that I can remember the reasons I was not initially opposed.

Christmas,

I think the problem we run into with MAD is that it's difficult to assess when an opposing leader is, in fact, convinced that use of his weapons will result in massive retaliation. Even if we're decided to utilize massive retaliation against any nation that utilizes a nuclear weapon, they'll only be deterred if they believe that we are. That's why it's so difficult to deal with people like Kim: trying to figure out with any reliability what he thinks is next to impossible. He doesn't have to be suicidal to use a nuclear device, after all, any more than Hussein was suicidal in not fully complying with SC687. He just has to believe that we won't react to his provocation.

Slartibartfast,

Anything in particular you'd like to know?

Bob,

Thank you. I think that the MAD question relates to what I said above to Christmas. The question is not so much would use result in destruction as whether or not the Iranians and North Koreans believe it would. I'm also not sure I'm clear on the last sentence of your second paragraph; you're saying that Arkin assesses the risk of Iran and North Korea with nuclear weapons and ICBMs as scary and unacceptable, right?

Jesurgislac,

Again, while I think it was a bad decision, I think that using September 11 as a deciding factor is not into the realm of the insane. After the attacks, deciding that an otherwise tolerable threat might no longer be tolerable seems reasonable, particularly since the administration was quite convinced that Iraq did, in fact, have an active WMD program.

Good post. Almost any behavior that seems irrational can be justified by assuming that the actor is making the same mistake Saddam made; assuming that the US won't actually take military action when push comes to shove.

The prevailing conservative narrative is that years of Democratic cut-and-run maneuvers (ignoring that Nixon pulled us out of Vietnam, Reagan pulled us out of Lebanon, and the official Republican position on Somalia was withdrawal) have made us look weak, and that only by occasionally kicking the stuffing out of a country like Iraq can we cause the rest of the world to respect our power.

Only... Iraq doesn't seem to have dampened Kim Jong-Il's ardor one bit. Is it because we abandoned Colin Powell's overwhelming force doctrine in Iraq and made ourselves look weak and tied down, or is it because the theory isn't really valid to begin with?

Andrew: After the attacks, deciding that an otherwise tolerable threat might no longer be tolerable seems reasonable

Well, except that Saddam Hussein presented no threat at all to the US, neither before nor after September 11. Deciding to attack a nonthreatening country on the basis of a terrorist attack from a group with no connection to that country would have been insane logic - which means that since I do not think Bush & Co are insane, they undoubtedly had other reasons for invading Iraq.

particularly since the administration was quite convinced that Iraq did, in fact, have an active WMD program.

Well, no. While it's possible that the Bush administration were both hopefully deluding themselves into believing that Iraq had WMD, and that there was no need for the invasion to include any special force to secure/destroy the WMD, it is what Aristotle would call an "implausible possible". With the evidence available to the administration then, which is now available to us all, we can safely say that if the Bush administration had talked themselves into believing that Iraq had the WMD that Bush & Co claimed they did, the Bush administration were hopelessly incompetent. But we knew that anyway.

Followup: Which is not to say that I think you were insane for supporting the invasion of Iraq: like the rest of the country, you were lied to.

"Even if we're decided to utilize massive retaliation against any nation that utilizes a nuclear weapon, they'll only be deterred if they believe that we are."

I think what Arkin is saying is that NK has very good reason not to believe it.

I have been trying to say this for months, that Moscow in the 60s was a specific situation, and too much about deterrence is extrapolated from it.

Suppose, just suppose, that tomorrow NK hits Seattle with a kiloton, killing a million. Suppose NK has three more missiles. Is it really such a lock that we will respond in kind, thereby assuring the death of, oh, 5 million South Koreans, 5 million Japanese, and a strike on Vancouver?

Everybody just assumes, that yes, we will find those acceptable losses. I am not so sure, and I lack the bravado and recklessness of Kim. Nobody else seems to buy this, they all assume deterrence

I think this is what Arkin is saying:NK and Iranian nuke missiles are unacceptable because they could use them and survive.

Although I basically believed he didn't have much, the turning point for me when I figured Saddam really had nothing was when he started destroying his missiles which only slightly exceeded their allowable range.

I don't think our biggest concern with NK is that they might launch a missile into one of our cities (or even into a Japanese or SK city). Instead, it's their penchant for selling military technology to anyone with the cash. I don't think it's an implausible concern that NK might sell a nuke to al'Qaeda sometime in the next few years.

What to do about it is the question, I guess. A pre-emptive war seems out of the question because probably neither SK nor Japan would allow us to use their territory as a jumping-off point (not to mention the fact that we're tied down in Iraq). I doubt there is anything we could offer Kim Jong Il at the bargaining table that would dissuade him from doing whatever he wants to. Anyone got any suggestions?

I blame Stanley Kubrick for the "insane leader" meme. He's largely responsible for the sapping of our collective national vital bodily fluids.

according to CNN, Japan is discussing the legality of a "pre-emptive" strike of its own.

Alternate theory: all of this saber-rattling by the NorKs is because we're cutting them in for a percentage of the Aegis sales.

Kidding, about 99.7%

"The alternative would be to recognize that long-range missiles can never really be an acceptable military instrument, that anything that is "unmanned" is intrinsically inhumane and dangerous because it allows -- even encourages -- aggression without consequence. God help us if our militaries develop over decades into armies of unmanned weapons." ...Bill Arkin, my emphasis

And my estimates above are wildly low. A million dead in Seattle vs probably more like 30 million dead in SK, Japan, etc. I do not understand why everyone assumes we will counterattack. Just to prove our deterrence? Pretty expensive.

We are bluffing, folks.

I do not understand why everyone assumes we will counterattack.

could you imagine the political cost to not counterattacking ? any president who didn't retaliate in-kind would probably sink his party forever... and put his own life in danger, i dare say

Welcome, glad you're here.

"Yet it's clear now that Hussein honestly believed that the United States was not going actually evict him from office, in part because he knew that he had no more WMDs and he assumed that we knew that as well."

I suspect that at least as important at the time was the idea that the US since President Carter had repeatedly suggested that it was either not willing or not able to act decisively in the Middle East. Carter and the hostages, Reagan and Lebanon, Bush I leaving Saddam in power, Clinton in Mogadishu (yes not technically in the Middle East), Bush I and Clinton in their dealings with post Gulf War I Iraq, and probably any of a number of lesser areas which didn't make big news in the US but which nevertheless were a big deal there. These gave the impression of a country which wasn't willing to risk a loss of life over problems in the Middle East and Africa.

The way all of those past decisions played out made some sort of sense at the time they were made. Carter and Reagan had more important and delicate things to deal with in the USSR. Bush I was navigating a complex post-USSR world. Clinton was operating from a high-tech only solution set that many in the armed forces had been hyping and perhaps believed that other countries in the UN took Iraq inspections more seriously than they really did (1998-2002 suggests that they did not very much at all). While I may disagree with some of the decisions, that is greatly colored by hindsight--they were all defensible at the time.

Cumulatively, they gave the impression that if the response was going to risk the lives of even a few US soldiers, we absolutely definitely weren't going to be doing it. From that mindset, Saddam's belief that he could pretend to have WMD programs without actually risking invasion (remember that it looked as if he might be able to get French, Russian and German help finally removing sanctions--without inspections for the previous four years--in the beginning of 2002.)

So this is a roundabout way of agreeing with you. :)

When analyzing what a 'rational' actor might do in response to the US, it is important to realize that they are likely both analyzing the facts differently from how we would and that they are drawing from a different set of what they see as important facts than we would if we were selecting them.

Steve,

I'd submit that both are factors. I think the theory is flawed in its thesis that we need to occasionally demonstrate our power. I think that it is probably accurate that our various displays of weakness from the hostages in Iran to the pullout of the Marines in Lebanon to the pullout in Somalia all have encouraged our enemies in our belief that they can convince us to leave. And we've put ourselves into that same trap in Iraq now. But the answer isn't to pick a 'target of the decade' to demonstrate our strength against every so often. It's not to put ourselves in such positions in the first place, and to make sure that when we do use military force, it's as devastating as possible and we leave on our own terms.

Now if I am understanding Arkin correctly, in this and the paragraph preceding Arkin is saying that considering all the circumstances a North Korean nuclear missile landing on LA would not automatically mean a total shooting war. And that this is why Kim and Iran want nuclear missiles and why they are so scarey and unacceptable.

This is how I interpret it: nuclear missiles are no longer an acceptable deterrent (not sure they ever were, but people at least pretended they were), so some people are arguing for using them as conventional first-strike on launch facilities, etc. Possibly even decapitation strikes.

I don't think this is necessarily a bad idea all by itself, but probably the least-understood problem in using precision-strike weapons is in getting a target. You can't hit the target if you don't know where it is, obviously.

By "them", I mean the delivery systems for the nuclear weapons, and not the nuclear weapons themselves.

I blame Stanley Kubrick for the "insane leader" meme. He's largely responsible for the sapping of our collective national vital bodily fluids.

This is my favourite comment of the week.

Andrew,

Not to derail what is otherwise an excellent discussion with an aside, but I do not buy (and I'm definitely not alone here) that the people driving the war decisions in the Bush Administration believed Iraq had WMDs. I am 100% certain that Cheney and Rumsfeld, at the very least, and likely Bush, lied, and continued to lie.

There is straightforward evidence of this. They repeatedly cited evidence that was demonstrably false, and continued to cite it long after it had been proven false. They made unequivocal statements of fact about the location and nature of WMDs--the kind of statements you never make without hard intel--and continued to stand by those statements after they had been proven false.

If they hadn't made statements of absolute certainty when the intel only justified probabilities, and if they hadn't continued using evidence like that as justification long after both their own inspectors and the UN's had shown them to be false, I could buy that they were led astray by bad intel. But they weren't--they knew it was bad, they knew it didn't support what they wanted to do, but they buried the reports that suggested otherwise and cherry picked what appealed to them. It was willful deception.

I'm largely in agreement with you about rational actors versus madmen, and the things you said about assessing the motivations of our adversaries have long been among my strongest arguments against what passes for foreign policy in the Bush administration.

In regards to your last response to Steve, I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on what we should do now in Iraq. I think that a rapid withdrawal from Iraq would appear as part of a pattern of weakness with the US, of a kind with our past responses in the ME and in Vietnam. But I think the alternatives are worse, and do far more to actually /make/ us weak and vulnerable instead of simply fostering the perception that we are so.

That is a simplified, shortened version of my thoughts, but I'd like to hear yours first.

Jesurgislac,

While it's possible that the Bush administration were both hopefully deluding themselves into believing that Iraq had WMD, and that there was no need for the invasion to include any special force to secure/destroy the WMD, it is what Aristotle would call an "implausible possible".

If they knew otherwise, they're not only incompetent, they're criminally negligent. I know for a fact that we went into the war expecting not only to find WMDs, but have them used against us. I was responsible for training Reserve Component units headed to the Gulf, and NBC training was a staple for all of them. We took it very seriously. If the Bush administration knew going in that there was nothing to worry about, that's a pretty serious charge since we wasted a lot of training time that could have been put to better use.

Woo hoo! Andrew Olmsted! Great choice, ObWi hivemind. I'll send the kitty a whole 12-pack of Pounce.

And, ok, here's the problem with using ICBMs as delivery systems for conventional weapons: they're not accurate enough. Oh, sure, they were plenty accurate enough to deliver a couple-of-hundred-kiloton warhead, but for conventional weapons you want accuracy in high single-digit meters (at most), not low triple-digit meters.

Using ICBMs for accurate strike would involve some redesign, and would furthermore be a huge waste of hardware that was designed to do something completely different. The navigation system alone could be replaced by something like $20k worth of commercial hardware plus a GPS receiver. And then you have payload: what, do you use a PBV to put conventional weapons on different reentry trajectories, or do you simply put a huge (a few thousand pounds) unitary explosive warhead on top of an ICBM?

Seems like a waste to me. Launching an ICBM is, along with a not inconsiderable use of resources and manpower, absolutely an alert to everyone who might be watching. It could be a nice surprise attack on NorK, for instance, but it might invite some angry responses from other places like Russia and PRC. Is there an anticipation of a scenario where we'd have a) precise, high confidence target coordinates, and b) less than a few hours' window of opportunity to deliver weapons?

I haven't read any of the thinking on this, possibly for the reason that none of it is any good. But if someone has a link, please throw it my way.

A few comments: I don't think our attack on Iraq had anything to do with military intelligence, or its failure. I (and I think many others) believe Iraq was in Bush's sights in 2000.

Your point about the difficulty of understanding Kim Jung-il's actions can be made about Bush's as well. Both seem completely counterproductive. Kim, the leader of a weak, poor, and isolated country, makes his country even poorer (no aid) and more isolated. What is his game plan? What does he think will happen?

Bush, the leader of a (then) wealthy, strong country makes his country poorer (Iraq costs), weaker (our choices are even more limited), and isolated. Why?

Can our analysts be even more ignorant and stupid than any American of average intelligence who had even cursory knowledge of Iraq, comprised of several ethnic groups which hate eachother? Was that a secret in 2003?

The biggest mystery of the modern world is not Kim's actions, but Bush's.

Andrew: If the Bush administration knew going in that there was nothing to worry about, that's a pretty serious charge since we wasted a lot of training time that could have been put to better use.

That hadn't occurred to me, but yes, you can add that to the list of serious charges to be brought against the Bush administration.

As Catsy says, it's clear from information we have now that the Bush administration knew Saddam Hussein had no WMD: the threat they pretended to see to justify the invasion was a lie. I see justifying with lies the invasion of a country which presented no threat to the US as a far more serious charge than that of wasting US army time with training that the Bush administration knew would not be necessary, but I can see that it would look differently to someone who actually did waste time training.

A very common mistake to make when looking at a leader like Saddam in 2002 is to analyse his actions only in the international context while overlooking his domestic political considerations.

"Why didn't he just come clean about not having WMDs", I remeber people writing a couple of years ago, "He must be nuts!"

But of course, Saddam was coming clean about those non-existant weapons (allowing inspectors, destroying certain missles etc.) or at least as clean as he could. I think he knew very well that the danger of an invasion and his overthrow by the US was very real and even very likely. But the hard place he was up against was his main (sole?) source of support within Iraq, the network of Sunni tribal leaders and their people. Part of his hold on that political base was his cultivated image of strength and fearlessness, and part of the image of strength depended on the domestic Iraqi belief in his possestion of a very potent arsenal.

I agree that it is a good idea to assume saneness on the parts of others when you know you may be missing important information.

But from what I've read about North Korea, the place seems to be a little crazy altogether. They've had a strong cult of personality for as long as the country has existed, and they have extreme censorship, for example. North Korea is probably as close to a national cult as is possible in these days. We usually see cult leaders get crazier and crazier as time goes by, in part because the adulation of their followers distorts their ability to accurately assess their own importance. It doesn't seem impossible to me that this has happened to Kim; so while his goals may be, as you suggest, to stay in power and to be seen as a world figure, his assessment of how to achieve those goals may be distorted by the remarkable weirdness of the national psychology.

But the answer isn't to pick a 'target of the decade' to demonstrate our strength against every so often. It's not to put ourselves in such positions in the first place, and to make sure that when we do use military force, it's as devastating as possible and we leave on our own terms.

Very well said. My view is that just as smacking around weaker countries isn't an end in itself, neither is "staying the course."

If remaining in Iraq until a stable government is established is truly that important to our national interest, no matter how long it takes, then so be it (although I don't get how anyone can make this case). But staying in Iraq just so we don't look weak, just so we don't take one in the loss column, just so we can keep telling the rest of the world that we mean business, that I can't support.

Consider Vietnam. Many on the right are still outraged that we withdrew from Vietnam, because it made us look weak and such. But our objective in Vietnam was not to look tough; it was to stop the "domino theory," it was to prevent Communism from overwhelming the globe one country at a time. It just blows my mind to think that today, after we know Communism ended up failing, there are still people who think we should have stayed another decade in Vietnam.

Thanks for joining. Looking forward to enlightening exchanges with you.

Andrew, nice to see you over here! I've been in the habit of checking out your excellent site for the last month or two. Marc Shulman mentioned you as a worthy moderate to pay attention to.

When analyzing what a 'rational' actor might do in response to the US, it is important to realize that they are likely both analyzing the facts differently from how we would and that they are drawing from a different set of what they see as important facts than we would if we were selecting them.
Sebastian Holsclaw - I agree with you totally and I appreciate your historical perspectives also.

Jesurgislac,

I concur that if the administration went to war under false pretenses, that is a far more serious charge than wasting training time. I'm just still unconvinced that is the case. I am a big believer in the old saw about malice and incompetence.

Catsy,

I will take a swing at a plan for 'what now' in Iraq a little later, as I think that requires a little more thought than I can currently devote to it.

To all who've welcomed me, thank you. I can see already it's going to be a challenge to keep up with the conversations around here, but I look forward to it.

I do not understand why everyone assumes we will counterattack. Just to prove our deterrence? Pretty expensive.

Cleek is right: it's politically impossible not to attack. But not just in the bad sense of satisfying the vengeful masses.

I was thinking about this re: Iran ... how does incinerating millions of powerless civilians "retaliate" for an attack by the enemy gov't? It doesn't, by any moral system worthy of the name. Unless your blowing up my family would be "retaliation" for my having done the same to yours.

What we've mislabeled "retaliation" is really deterrence of future attacks. If it were demonstrated that NK could take out Seattle and not lose Pyongyang, we would be taping a big "NUKE ME" sign to our national backside.

Oh, and welcome, Andrew. Glad to see what looks like a diversification of viewpoints. Though I would have to agree with Jes and Catsy re: the Iraq war--there was a decision to invade Iraq, followed by a sales campaign touting the supposed WMD threat.

Anderson,

I agree that the decision to invade Iraq was not predicated on Iraq's possession of WMDs. I'm just not convinced that they were aware at the time that Iraq didn't have any. While I know that the State
Department's BIR thought that Iraq might not, I'm not aware of anyone else in the intelligence community that believed Iraq had eliminated all their WMDs.

Andrew: I concur that if the administration went to war under false pretenses, that is a far more serious charge than wasting training time. I'm just still unconvinced that is the case.

Well, it would certainly be interesting to see an intelligent right-wing analysis of the lies we know the Bush administration told about their belief in Iraq's WMD, and their other actions (such as the fact that there was no force available to secure/destroy WMD if any had been discovered in Iraq, and the attempt to discredit Ambassdor Wilson); and why this evidence does not convince you that the Bush administration knew Iraq had no WMD well before the invasion - especially given that we know by the Downing Street memo that the Bush administration had made up their minds to invade Iraq regardless of any evidence found by the UN inspectors.

chimoy is a spoiled frat boy; cheney is a paranoid, evil greedy sonofabitch who couldnt tell the truth if it wer tortured out of him. Rummy Wolfie and the whole gang planned and executed 9/11 (their little "Perl Harbor" so they could use it as a pretext to destroy this country. Anyone who hasn't figured that out is probably still in a commercial advertising and marketing media-induced coma. Good luck with that.

The Republic is DEAD and GONE.

Chimpy ain't leavin in 2008.

Rove is claiming the GOP will maintain control of the government. That's because they already have the results tabulated by Diebold.

They are building fences at the borders to KEEP AMERICANS IN once they crack down and start filling those Haliburton-built concentration camps.

Time to get the hell out of dodge.

For what it's worth, I haven't seen any evidence that the administration either knew or believed that Iraq didn't have WMD.

I have seen evidence of the following things: that they presented as sound evidence they knew had at least very serious problems (e.g., Niger and yellowcake); that they hyped evidence beyond what any reasonable analysis would bear; and that they discounted evidence (what evidence there was) that suggested that Iraq did not have WMD. E.g.: James Risen, in State of War, claims that we had the very good idea of getting relatives of Iraqi scientists who had been working on WMD and who were still in Iraq, and getting them to go to Iraq and try to ask their relatives about it, in some secure and private way. The sister of one such scientist, for instance, had to fly back to Iraq because her mother had died and there were issues about the estate; while there, on CIA request, she asked her brother about WMD.

All of these people (30 or so, according to Risen) reported the same thing: Saddam had no WMD program. This was, according to Risen, not disseminated to senior officials. And this is particularly nutty since, in general, we seem to have had next to no human intelligence sources in Iraq, outside the Kurdish zone at least.

Anyways, though: it's a long way from hyping evidence of WMD, or even knowing that the evidence you have is inadequate, to believing that there are no WMD.

My best guess is that they did believe that he had WMD; that this was not their main reason for invading (which explains what I think is the shocking lack of a real sober serious assessment of that evidence); but that it was the best reason to offer in support of the invasion in political terms.

I also think it's a mistake, with this administration, ever to underestimate their willingness to believe something because they "know" it's true, whatever the evidence says or doesn't say.

Jesurgislac,

Perhaps the issue is that I haven't seen the evidence to which you refer. While I attempt to stay well-informed, there is a lot of information out there, and I simply can't dedicate the time it would take to keep up with it all. And while I hear lots of people saying that Bush lied, no one has ever actually shown me the evidence. I'm not saying it's not out there, only that I haven't seen it. Confirmation bias may play a role here, of course, as I haven't gone looking, either.

Marblex: any plans to offer evidence for some of your wilder claims?

Also, is 'Chimoy' one of those islands that was a campaign issue in 1960? Because I'd hate to think you were going to ruin our perfect record of not having people refer to Bush in ways that normally exist only in right-wing stereotypes.

i wonder if marblex is associated with, or plays the same game as, Leonidas.

You seem strangely familiar.

It's almost as if someone might have suggested you to Hilzoy, her having never heard of you before that. Or as if you first started commenting here after Someone linked to you here, and you noticed.

Nah.

Welcome.

In your posts re the start of the Iraq War, Andrew, you use two words that are important: 'all' and 'know.' Obviously, it would be impossible ever to know whether Iraq had eliminated 'all' its WMD. Probably logistically impossible to eliminate all of them. The relevant threshold, though, wasn't whether there was an old canister of mustard gas moldering in some warehouse. It was whether Iraq possessed a WMD arsenal that made it either a direct or an indirect threat to the US.

And what does 'know' mean? Certainly the Administration 'knew' in late February 2003 that the information it had been fed by various defectors and other sources was deeply flawed. The Blix team had gone on one goose chase after another, looking at sites where the stuff was supposed to be and finding it was not there, and had not been there in a decade at least. What did the Administration do with this information? It did not agree with allies, like Canada, that suggested that inspections be given additional time. Instead, the VP went on TV claiming that we "knew" that Blix and the IAEA were plain wrong, and the invasion was commenced.

I'm conflicted about this decision. I think it was wrong, dishonest, and politically motivated. The gamble was that we'd be greeted as liberators; that everyone would be so happy that Saddam was gone, that anything that had been said or done before was of no consequence. I find this unacceptable in my employees (and certainly from Chalabi). On the other hand, an extension of the inspections would have proven what we know know: there was no danger. Saddam would've prevailed in a superpower confrontation, sanctions would've eased, and I don't know what kind of messes we'd have gotten in after that. maybe no worse than we're in now -- it's unknowable.

I have never heard anyone give a decent explanation why Iraq had to be invaded before bin Laden was caught, and have become fairly sure that (a) at the early stages of Iraq planning, they were confident bin Laden would've been caught by then; and (b) they couldn't wait once the inspections started, because there was a very substantial risk that Saddam didn't have anything serious.

Also, the extent of a WMD arsenal that justifies training and use of protective equipment is very different from the extent that could justify mounting an invasion.

Gary,

I did forget to thank you above; my apologies. I do appreciate the referral.

In fairness, I was reading over here before your referral. The comments just kept scaring me off. I've already seen more comments on this post than my site normally draws in a month, assuming I don't make a post about Macs.

hilzoy,

I am sorry to note that the word "Chimpy" (spelled correctly) appeared later in marblex's posts, and assuming that marblex is not a poseur, we have had another smear used here by someone left of center. Whether it is fair to ascribe such a smear to liberals, when it appears marblex is far left, is an issue for another day.

Andrew: And while I hear lots of people saying that Bush lied, no one has ever actually shown me the evidence.

Well, I think you can fairly say that Bush's speechwriters are very, very good at having Bush make only statements that can, if very carefully parsed, be held to be true. As for example, Bush's claims in the 2003 SOTU that "Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production." Now, it may be true that "intelligence sources" had told the Bush administration this. But the International Atomic Energy Agency had confirmed that the aluminum tubes would in fact be highly unsuitable for nuclear weapons production.

That's one specific example of a statement made by Bush that, with careful parsing, could be described as true. I do find that the direct statements which can later be shown to be unmistakably lies tend to come from Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld: perhaps because Bush is such a rotten public speaker that everything he says is scripted. (There is the incident in one of the Kerry/Bush debates where Bush claimed he'd never said that Osama bin Laden wasn't that important to him - I'm assuming he went offscript there, since there was so many occasions when he had said just that in public.)

That's one example. But if you're truly interested in finding out how Bush lied to you, then you can undoubtedly find more.

Jesurgislac,

At this point, I'd be lying if I said I was all that interested. Whether he lied or not doesn't change the damage that's been done; even if it could be proven that the Bush administration has acted in good faith since day one, that wouldn't make the outcome any better.

"Suppose, just suppose, that tomorrow NK hits Seattle with a kiloton, killing a million."

As a small point of numbers, that's more or less impossible.

See here, for instance.

The fireball from a 10-kiloton explosion at ground level would reach a radius of 200 meters, hence would have a diameter of 400 meters or about a quarter of a mile. Everything within this radius would be completely destroyed. In the case of a badly designed or badly implemented bomb that yielded only 1 kiloton, the fireball would have a diameter about 2.5 times smaller, hence about 150 meters.

[...]

A blast-wave overpressure of 5 pounds per square inch, which is associated with winds around 150 miles per hour, is enough to destroy wood-frame buildings and cause severe damage to brick apartment buildings; overpressure of this magnitude would be experienced at about 1,000 meters from a 10-kiloton surface explosion and 500 meters from a 1-kiloton surface explosion.

[...]

The distance from a 10-kiloton surface explosion at which a person in the open could receive a prompt dose of 500 rem from neutrons and gamma rays (the dose that will prove fatal within 30 days to about half the people receiving it) is around 1,500 meters. For a 1-kiloton surface explosion, this distance would be around 1,100 meters, and for a 100-kiloton thermonuclear explosion about 1,800 meters. Doses received by people shielded from the explosion by buildings would be lower.

[...]

A nuclear fireball radiates energy in infrared, visible, and ultraviolet wavelengths with enough intensity to burn exposed skin and char or ignite flammable materials at substantial distances. For a 10-kiloton surface explosion, the radiant intensities on a clear day are sufficient to ignite clothing at a distance of 1,100 meters and to cause second-degree burns on exposed skin at 1,700 meters. For a 1-kiloton surface explosion, the distance for second-degree burns would be about 600 meters;

[...]

[Fallout] If the dose at the boundary of the area of interest is taken to be 500 rem within 48 hours to unprotected persons who do not leave the area, the answer comes out around 3 square kilometers per kiloton of fission energy release....

[...]]

Manhattan has a population density of about 70,000 (residents) per square mile (27,000 per square kilometer), so by the indicated rule of thumb a 10-kiloton nuclear explosion in Manhattan late at night (when the residents and overnight tourists are there, but commuting workers are not) would be estimated to kill outright more than 80,000 people.

There's no possible way to directly kill a million people with a 1-kiloton explosion. You're off by about three orders of magnitude. It might kill 10,000 people, if you're "lucky."

Maybe if you brought down Three Gorges Dam with the bomb, after the dam is finished.

People tend to have an exaggerated impression of the power of a fission bomb. They're awesome, but not, at least at the lower end of the scale, All-Destructive. (50-megaton [the largest ever built by the U.S.] or 100-megaton fusion bombs [largest ever designed, by the Soviets, though never built to that spec], on the other hand, are pretty big; you wouldn't want to be within 100 kilometers, or even more, of it.)

Andrew: At this point, I'd be lying if I said I was all that interested.

Well, if you think serious charges against the President and the Bush administration aren't all that interesting, I guess we just have different ideas about what's interesting.

Whether he lied or not doesn't change the damage that's been done; even if it could be proven that the Bush administration has acted in good faith since day one, that wouldn't make the outcome any better.

By that argument, murder trials are a waste of time. Nothing can bring the victim back to life, so why bother charging or trying or doing anything to anyone, regardless how strong the evidence that one person committed the murder?

I don't think that murder trials are a waste of time: I think that justice should be done, and done openly. I think a crime on this scale committed by the President of the United States and his administration is of international as well as national interest, and that it would be worth the credit it would bring the US if it were shown that the people of the US do not believe that the President ought to be allowed to lie them into a war of aggression against another country with impunity.

Jes: my favorite example has always been Bush's statement -- which I'll find, if anyone cares, that he didn't have a plan for war in Iraq "on his desk", at a time when it is now very clear that intensive planning for the invasion had been going on for some time.

Normally one would not have to ask one's President whether he had such a plan in his file cabinet, in or on any other piece of office furniture, in his briefcase, in someone else's office for safekeeping, etc.

Feh.

Jesurgislac,

Let me clarify my statement. I simply don't have the time to try and go through all the available data to determine what the truth is here. (I run into the same problem with global warming.) If you are correct about the administration, then I concur they ought to be impeached, but that's a tough case to make.

I should note, though, that Cobra II presents a clear example of a lie by President Bush, when he was asked about an invasion of Iraq in 2002 and he said no such plans were in the works. As the authors make it clear that planning for Iraq began as early as 2001, and that President Bush was in that loop, that's a no-questions-asked lie.

And Jes: I don't think Andrew's point has to be anything like: he doesn't care about justice. It could just as easily be: the damage has been done, on his watch, and whether it was done deliberately, as a result of some analog of criminal negligence, or whatever, that does not affect the appropriate response at all.

Likewise, if it is indeed true that navy captains whose ships run aground are automatically cashiered, on the grounds that whatever led up to the running aground, it has to reflect some serious command problem, that doesn't necessarily mean that the navy "doesn't care" about doing justice. It just means that what justice requires does not, in this case, require establishing deliberate intent, or anything like it, but can be done just on the grounds that it was your ship, you were commanding it, and it ran aground.

Hello, Andrew. I'm glad you enjoyed my previous post. As far as the issue of North Korean nukes goes, I think the question is not is KJI (or GWB for that matter) crazy, but is he crazier than Stalin? If not...well, I wouldn't go so far as to say that the nukes are nothing to worry about, but they probably aren't the country's biggest concern at the moment.

On the other hand, the only person to ever order the use of nukes on a civilian population was Truman, who was, as far as I know, generally eminently sane, so maybe the nuke use-sanity correlation isn't as tight as one might think.

Jesurgislac,

Also, to use your murder example, the prosecuter doesn't empanel a jury and then tell them to go find their own evidence that a crime was committed. He lays out the facts for them and makes a case that the crime was committed by the accused. You argue that a crime was committed, but when I noted that I haven't seen the evidence, you told me I could find it if I was interested.

I'm not saying you're not right. I'm just saying that I haven't seen the evidence, and I don't have the time to go find it. Since you're so convinced, a sample of the evidence that convinced you would be rather helpful in convincing others.

Dianne,

Truman had absolute certainty that Japan couldn't retaliate. That makes the decision quite rational. You can't really compare Truman's decision with anyone else's, because no other leader has been in a comparable situation.

Andrew: I simply don't have the time to try and go through all the available data to determine what the truth is here.

There are plenty of sites out there which already have done the hard work of finding links to hard data showing that Bush made statements which are, ahem, generally not correct. The sites themselves are of course generally partisan, but the links are quite direct.

I say this, and I mean it sincerely: tempting though it often is to argue that "so-and-so didn't blog about such-and-such, therefore so-and-so DOESN'T CARE ABOUT x (where "x" is an important constituent factor of such-and-such) I do believe this is false reasoning. If you choose never, ever to blog about the Iraq war, I will not take this as evidence you don't care about the Iraq war, but that - with all the things there are in the universe to blog about - you opt to look at other things.

Going back and re-reading this blog post, I accept that you meant it to be about the craziness-or-not of Kim Jong-Il, not the war in Iraq. And it's your first day, so I'll not keep chewing at it. :-D

"For what it's worth, I haven't seen any evidence that the administration either knew or believed that Iraq didn't have WMD."

This is honestly not the discussion I was expecting from this post, but anyways: I do believe there is at least indirect evidence in the inadequate preparation before the war, the way the invasion was managed, the decision not to secure sites and armories, and many other actions both before and after the invasion to support the argument that the administration believed there was no threat of WMD use because there were no WMD's.

Andrew: You argue that a crime was committed, but when I noted that I haven't seen the evidence, you told me I could find it if I was interested.

I offered you a specific example of a specific statement where Bush lied in SOTU 2003. (Or rather: where he made a statement that could be carefully parsed as being precisely true, but which was in fact saying something that Bush/his advisers knew wasn't true.)

If you like, I can go find you sites which parsed and checked every single lie in SOTU 2003. Hell, if you'll promise to read it, I'll do it myself and post it on my journal: it'll take a while, and it almost seems not worth doing given how many other people already did it three years ago, but...

Catsy: "Not to derail what is otherwise an excellent discussion with an aside, but I do not buy (and I'm definitely not alone here) that the people driving the war decisions in the Bush Administration believed Iraq had WMDs."

I'm also uninteresting in sidetracking this into much of a discussion of this, so expect me to drop the topic after a few comments at most, but I do believe that they believed that Iraq had WMDs, or that, at least, there was a dangerously high probability that Iraq still had WMDs, and that, at the absolute least, that leaving Hussein in power meant that sooner or later, sanctions would be lifted sufficiently for him to reconstitute WMD programs and WMDs.

I could give a long list of reasons for this, ranging from the fact that this is SOP approach for these folks at the top, who were also the Committee For The Present Danger, and have always been inclined to over-estimate the enemy threat, to the fact that even casual knowledge of how the military approached the invasion of Iraq will show seriously they took the threat of chemical attack, at the expense of considerable trouble, limitations placed on our attack, literal expense, and so on, to a considerable variety of other factors.

"There is straightforward evidence of this. They repeatedly cited evidence that was demonstrably false, and continued to cite it long after it had been proven false. They made unequivocal statements of fact about the location and nature of WMDs--the kind of statements you never make without hard intel--and continued to stand by those statements after they had been proven false."

First, that's not "evidence"; that's supposition.

Second, yeah, they exaggerated, and lied, if you will, to gain public support. That's evidence only of that. Why did they? I see no reason not to believe that it was because they're politicians, and moreover they're particularly, as individuals, comfortable with lying to convince the public of that which they want it to believe.

Ockham's Razor doesn't require me to go any further than that to understand what happened. And it suggests I go no further. So I don't. I'm comfortable with that.

Hilzoy, I didn't mean to imply that Andrew doesn't care about justice. I meant simply what I said: his argument that it doesn't matter now (that Bush lied) because nothing will change the results (that the US is embroiled in war with Iraq) is equally an argument that it doesn't matter about trying someone accused of murder, because nothing will bring the murdered victim back to life.

I say this, and I mean it sincerely: tempting though it often is to argue that "so-and-so didn't blog about such-and-such, therefore so-and-so DOESN'T CARE ABOUT x (where "x" is an important constituent factor of such-and-such) I do believe this is false reasoning. If you choose never, ever to blog about the Iraq war, I will not take this as evidence you don't care about the Iraq war, but that - with all the things there are in the universe to blog about - you opt to look at other things.

I agree with this completely. I'm not sure if I understand the relevance, however. If you thought that was the argument that I was making, then let me be clear that I was not. It's clear that you care about the issue. My point was merely that if you're interested in spreading the gospel, so to speak, you've got to do some selling.

Chew away. No doubt you'll love the post I've got working on what to do next in Iraq.

"As a small point of numbers, that's more or less impossible...etc" Gary

Thank you for your informative correction. You are possibly able to help me out with the best estimate of what size weapons NK is actually developing and could make into warheads. It would be appreciated.

Thanks for this interesting post. Just a few stream of consciousness comments, which address the apragmatic (I suppose) questions of human nature.
I think it is a serious mistake to assume that human beings are rational. Of course, this immediately opens up a really tough question : since all of us vitally depend on being able to predict human behavior, just how are we going to (try to) predict it if we admit that we are not rational, i.e. that the majority of our motivations are unknown to us, and that we often rationalize to justify our motivations after acting ? (I do think that the most vital caracteristic of living things is their unpredictability, by the way, and that preserving that unpredictability is very important.)
Once I have accepted that I am not rational (which incidentally destroys the debate sane/insane, as insights into the criminal justice system provide) then I can admit that others are not rational either, and start looking for other ways of analyzing human behavior.
A small, but telling example. One of the last people executed in France was a young man who was an accomplice to a more seasoned criminal who killed two nurses in a prison where he was incarcerated. While the seasoned criminal insisted that his young accomplice really had no personal responsibility in the crime, both men were executed. Why ? For the simple (but not rational) reason that two "victims" called for two executions.
In a great deal of your post, the "primitive" (and not Jewish, I hasten to add) talion argument is evident. So many millions of victims on one side call for an equal amount, if not greater on the other side. (I'm not suggesting that this is your position, but that the talion logic is at work in the examples you bring up.)
I'll leave deterrence (another false problem) for another post. This one is already really long. Cheers.

Truman had absolute certainty that Japan couldn't retaliate. That makes the decision quite rational.

That's a good point. It makes the decision even more evil, but also more rational.

Andrew: I agree with this completely. I'm not sure if I understand the relevance, however.

Oh. I meant, that I'd gone back and re-read your original post and realized that I'd got distracted: the central point of your post was not about Bush's decision to go to war with Iraq, but the perception of that decision, and comparing that to the craziness or otherwise of other leaders. This of course got distracted (this being ObWing) into the evidence that Bush lied the US into war with Iraq. But as Bush's lies about Iraq weren't the central point of this post, you can fairly tell me that it's offtopic and you're not interested - whereas if the post had actually been directly about the Iraq war, it would of course be relevant. (And I'd go on chewing.)

Debra,

You've given me the perfect opening for one of my favorite Heinlein quotes: "Man is not a rational animal. He is a rationalizing animal."

More seriously, while there's truth in that, there is also a degree of reason in most human beings, greater in some than in others. Interpreting behavior is problematic because it's difficult to determine precisely what facts are being utilized and what weight is being assigned to each. So while a process of reason may be going on (and may not, as I believe hilzoy alluded to in a post last week), reason is dependent on which facts are used and how.

Welcome Andrew; great first post. I look forward to more posts on many a subject. (Any hobbies you enjoy, perhaps?)

That's a good point. It makes the decision even more evil, but also more rational.

That sounds like an intriguing issue to return to at some later date...

Anderson: "Though I would have to agree with Jes and Catsy re: the Iraq war--there was a decision to invade Iraq, followed by a sales campaign touting the supposed WMD threat."

Now that formulation, on the other hand, I agree with.

Andrew: "While I know that the State Department's BIR thought that Iraq might not, I'm not aware of anyone else in the intelligence community that believed Iraq had eliminated all their WMDs."

There were some individuals, but it's besides the point; Cheney and Rumsfeld and Bush and Rice were listening to the "guts" of the top three, and to Feith's Office of Special Plans, not to the intel pros. If Powell had been President, things might have been different, but not otherwise.

Jes says, as she has a million times: "...and why this evidence does not convince you that the Bush administration knew Iraq had no WMD well before the invasion - especially given that we know by the Downing Street memo that the Bush administration had made up their minds to invade Iraq regardless of any evidence found by the UN inspectors."

What Jes excludes is the fact that people don't work purely logically and it doesn't enter into her universe that people can have "made up their minds to invade Iraq regardless of any evidence found by the UN inspectors" and still sincerely believe their own semi-delusionary thinking.

Which in my view requires a quite insane belief in people's universal rationality, or a refusal to observe how people actually work in real life, but there you are. (Jes does, after all, have a rather observable apparent tendency to refuse to believe that other people could reasonably come to different conclusions than she could.)

Andrew: "In fairness, I was reading over here before your referral."

I didn't say otherwise.

Hilzoy: "Normally one would not have to ask one's President whether he had such a plan in his file cabinet, in or on any other piece of office furniture, in his briefcase, in someone else's office for safekeeping, etc."

Bush is one of those folks who famously keeps a clear desk, if reports are to be believed.

Of course, all his rhetoric during that time was obsfuscation, to use a kind term. Woodward's Plan Of Attack makes this perfectly clear.

(50-megaton [the largest ever built by the U.S.] or 100-megaton fusion bombs [largest ever designed, by the Soviets, though never built to that spec], on the other hand, are pretty big; you wouldn't want to be within 100 kilometers, or even more, of it.)

The Sovs made quite a few claims about their capabilities, some of which were quite a bit scarier than Tsar Bomba. But the details of the Tsar Bomba test Gary linked...I had never seen that. It's worth a read. The thing was never even close to being a weapon, but...pretty shiver-inducing.

Thanks, Gary.

on the topic of flexing our muscles and "sticking it out" to prove to the world that we Mean Business, let's go to Yglesias again; this time with the "Green Lantern School of foreign policy.

Slarti: The Soviets ended up bankrupting themselves trying to keep up with the Jonses/Americans in the WMD race. I actually kind of think that that's what will happen to N Korea if no other action is taken. (I wonder if Bush thinks this too and that's why he's not more worried...scary to even imagine that I might agree with Bush;-) Another reason that NK's nukes don't scare me all that badly.

"You are possibly able to help me out with the best estimate of what size weapons NK is actually developing and could make into warheads. It would be appreciated."

That's pretty hard to say, given how little information we have. As I've said previously, we don't even know for sure whether Kim has the technical capability to make a bomb at all that will work. Maybe yes, maybe no. Pulling a number out of my rear, I'd guess that the odds might be only 75-25 that he can. We just don't know.

Maybe he has plans, but his folks will only put together a fizzle. Until such time as they do a test, or we have great spy reports, who knows?

So guessing what size bomb he'd construct is even more of a guess. I would certainly think that it would be fission, not fusion, though who knows, maybe he's ambitious and arrogant enough to try to go straight to a fusion bomb? I very much doubt it, since that would be unbelievably stupid, but again: who knows?

But assuming it's a fission bomb, we do know that the amount of U235 and plutonium they have is limited. See here for some useful parameters.

If I had to guess, and all I could do is guess somewhat wildly, I'd guess that they have under 10 bombs, max, and none are much larger than 3-6 times the size of the Hiroshima or Nagasaki bombs, which is to say, well under 50 kilotons each, and probably under 20 kilotons each, likely even less (and probably 6 or fewer bombs).

But I'm just guessing.

Here is a little outline of some other relevant info. You can also fish around here, among many other sources.

"The Soviets ended up bankrupting themselves trying to keep up with the Jonses/Americans in the WMD race. I actually kind of think that that's what will happen to N Korea if no other action is taken."

I don't think this applies to North Korea. The country has been bankrupt for decades, and still pursues nuclear weapons. The only reason nearly everyone in the country hasn't starved to death is because China, Japan, the US and South Korea have been sending food.

That is why we are so worried they might sell a nuke to someone.

"If I had to guess, and all I could do is guess somewhat wildly, I'd guess that they have under 10 bombs, max"

For now. If they can get their reactor started up, they can go into production. Hiding a reactor is nontrivial, but not impossible.

Correction: they already have a reactor; what they're looking to do is scale up.

Slart: "But the details of the Tsar Bomba test Gary linked...I had never seen that. It's worth a read."

One of the fascinating points: "The bomb was tested only 16 weeks after the initiation of its design."

Damned if I can think of anything it would be useful for, though, other than impressing people. Even against a large asteroid it would just break it up into lots of dangerous parts. Maybe against a small enough asteroid hurtling towards Earth, perhaps.

The 60s were a time when we were playing 'can you top this' with the Russians, whether in space or in weapons design. I'd chalk the Tsar Bomba up as one more example of that tendency.

Yeah, cleek, Yglesias quoting Gerecht:

"Add a failure in Iran to a failure in Iraq to a failure in Afghanistan, and we could supercharge Islamic radicalism in a way never before seen. The widespread and lethal impression of American weakness under the Clinton administration, which did so much to energize bin Ladenism in the 1990s, could look like the glory years of American power compared to what the Bush administration may leave in its wake."

I'd substitute the word will for may in that last sentence. And wonder what sort of rational, or rationlizing, policy-maker would choose this future.

"And wonder what sort of rational, or rationlizing, policy-maker would choose this future."

Which for you would tend to suggest that the 'irrational' leader concept isn't ridiculous. :)

It's all a matter of what yardstick you're using. The President was re-elected, which to some may well be enough to call the Iraq policy a success. (ie, to those for whom the nomination/confirmation of Justices Alito & Roberts is more important than foreign policy).

Has anyone heard about this recent development? A possible
Japanese equation in the mix.

here Sorry! Still learning!

Wow.

And Bec: congratulations on the successful link. (When I first started posting here -- not commenting, but posting -- I had no idea how to do that. And that was, as you might imagine, a problem.)

We've been trying to sell Japan on Aegis vessels for missile defense for well over a decade, and, well, they bought the technology.

So a move in the offensive-defense direction isn't all that surprising.

"Has anyone heard about this recent development?"

Since it's on the front page of the NY Times, Washington Post, and every other paper, yes. :-) (Don't mind me; I'm a news junkie; always have been.)

Oh, and consider that last comment in context of this. I think there was actually a successful SM-2 Block IV test much closer to the North Korea Taepodong launch, but I can't find it right this second.

Ok, I was wrong: it was an SM-3 test.

Diplomacy is the art of managing perceptions.

if someone famous didn't say that already, then it's free for the taking. but there's a couple of points i'll try to make coherently off of that idea.

The single greatest failure of american diplomacy since 1941 was our inability to persuade Bin Laden in ADVANCE of 9/11 that a strike against the US would be met with overwhelming force. Bin Laden misunderstood what americans would tolerate. (He also appears to have badly miscalculated the willingness of the "arab street" to rise up against their oppressors.)

What Bin Laden failed to understand is that the combination of american wealth and american belief in our own exceptionalism has lead us a number of times (vietnam, lebanon, somalia) into an initial commitment of blood and treasure, to be followed by a retreat once we learned that the locals had a greater stake in the outcome than we were willing to invest.

Similarly, Saddam misunderstood american signals relating to Kuwait. Had he understood our real commitment, he never would have invaded.

One problem for foreign leaders trying to understand US policy is that we send such radically mixed signals. But that appears to be both a bug and a feature of being a democracy.

With World Cup matches at 2 in the morning and trying to pry the remote to catch the news from my daughters, it's been tough here, but while the fact that Japanese are talking about preemptive strikes may be surprising, it is the same very hawkish factor in the Diet, let by Abe, who are pushing this. This Hindu article reports a recent NHK poll, but the 'somewhat fearful' category seemed to be much less forceful in the original Japanese question. In fact, Abe, who was the leading candidate to replace Koizumi and is famed for his no nonsense approach towards NK, though up 6 points from previous polls, is only at 37%, which seems surprisingly soft to me.

It's also mystifying to me that there is concern that NK can get a nuke small enough to fit on a rocket, get the rocket (which is essentially two scuds strapped together) accurately targeted to the west coast and get it to go off correctly. In fact, I believe that one of the reasons the Clinton admin made such a big deal about plutonium is because that would make it a lot easier to shrink a nuke to payload size. Of course, having ignored the situation for 6 years, it is now easier to spin all kinds of dangerous situations that could happen. The question you have to ask is, well, whose fault is that?

I think getting a nuke off in Tokyo would be enough.

Andrew, I checked out your own blog and couldn't help but notice that your blogroll contains nearly every lunatic and no-talent on the right, including Misha, LGF, Ace of Spades (which you misspell as Ace of Spaces), Den Beste, etc.

Color me very unimpressed.

Damn you! Now I'll have to come up with another name under which to comment!

I pleased that you have the concerns of the Japanese people (and me) so close to heart, Sebastian. However, this doesn't, at least to me, square with your disagreements with the Agreed Framework as well as your suggestions that we simply withdraw from South Korea (and presumably from Japan?) as well as withdrawing from the NPT. Either you want to defend SK and Japan or you don't, but I'd ask you not to invoke the threat to Tokyo merely as a debating point.

This WaPo piece from sept 05 has some prescient points.

Fascinating piece in last year's WaPo, liberal japonicus. Diplomancy really does "take time" as they say.

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