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January 19, 2010

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Strong AI is always 20 years away.
Viable fusion power is always 20 years away.

Iraq will be shining and full of ponies in six months.

Is this like the Al-Qaeda #3 being taken out with each drone strike?

1- With neighbors like Iraq, Pakistan, the soviet stan sisters, and Israel, can you blame Iran for wanting the bomb?
2- Is Israel screaming about an Iranian nuke to take attention away from the Palestinian tragedy?
3- If the green revolution was to succeed, isn't it likely that they would want nukes?

If the green revolution was to succeed, isn't it likely that they would want nukes?

Moussavi has attacked A-Jad from the hawkish flank on nuclear enrichment. However, the Iranian people don't talk about the nuclear issue in terms of nuclear weapons. The discussion is in the context of Iran's right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes under the NPT. Which right, they are supposed to have and yet have been subjected to a double standard.

But yes, even the green revolters are intent on preserving Iranian autonomy, sovereignty and rights when it comes to uranium enrichment.

Actual nuclear weapons are not as popular. In fact, Khamenei has issued fatwas decrying nuclear weapons as undemocratic.

This reminds me somehow of the old question of how many coin tosses it takes to convince you that a coin is unfair.

The question in this case being how many times you need to repeat this cycle - assessing that a country has the capability of producing nuclear weapons in a few years, followed by them not having produced such weapons a few years later - before you come to the conclusion that they do not actually intend to produce nuclear weapons.

It's more complex than the coin, of course; unlike the coin, the intentions of a nation are not fixed once and for all time. But it ought to be a reasonable rule of thumb when it comes to deciding how much hysteria to engage in when a new report comes out.

We don't know when. At least, according to public sources, it's clear that prediction is hard, especially about the future.

If we don't know when, we do know what. The hidden nuclear development, the secret factories half-built, the threats against their neighbors, and their clear wish to resurrect the ancient Persian empire only add weight on one side of the scale.

Most persuasive is the several different series of ballistic missiles designed for quick launch, that Iran has been developing, at great cost. There is no other practical use for these missiles other than delivering WMDs. The missile tests have been observed internationally and announced by their Defense Minister. They can deliver a warhead size of about a ton, similar to the SCUD, but further and more accurately.

The holocaust-deniers in charge of Iran are not men of sound mind. Let's not let them experiment with nuclear weapons.

Here's what the spokesman of the Supreme Leader said in August:


"We have to train honest forces that can stop the obstacles that may hinder the coming of the Mahdi like the United States and Israel," Saeedi said in statement posted by the Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA).

Now you know what the nukes are for.
The quote is from Al Arabiya.

Jeez Fred, even by your admittedly low standards, that entire comment was the thinnest of gruels.

Innuendo, half-truth, embellishment, exaggeration, mind-reading and outright lies.

Well played sir. Well played.

Strictly speaking, you CAN always be a day away... if there's somebody continually impeding your efforts. It's only facially absurd to keep claiming Iran is 5 years from the bomb, if nobody has been doing anything to keep setting their efforts back.

Five years? Isn't the proper term ten Friedman Units?

We don't know. Like at all really. See also

"Leslie Groves -- who knew something about building a bomb -- testified in front of Congress that it would take them twenty years. In 1948 many Kremlinologists were saying "five to ten years," when in fact the Soviets had a usable bomb in 1949. In 1948 an engineer in Look magazine predicted the Soviets would get the bomb in 1954. Many scientists predicted 1952 and some thought 1970. The Joint Chiefs of Staff were predicted the mid- to late 1950s. The Air Force was the one institution which got it right and remarks from Senator Arthur Vandenberg were close to the truth as well."

See also Iraq right before invading Kuwait. We still don't understand why Saddam didn't wait the 6-9 months he would have needed.

The nuke will be here
Tomorrow
Bet your bottom dollar
That tomorrow
There'll be nukes

I believe that Iran wants to reach a point where it can produce a nuke quickly, if the need arises, but has for the time being no intention to actually build (let alone test) one. In that case I think Iran could be there in a year, if the decision is made to go full speed ahead and they do not run into unexpected obstacles. But the same case could be made for many other industrial nations. The first nukes in that case would be rather crude though and not fit on a missile. They'd be formidable for greeting invaders in your capital city though, espcially if one could use it to (black) rain on the victory parade.
Btw, did Israel never test its own designs (except maybe the Vela incident)?

It's only facially absurd to keep claiming Iran is 5 years from the bombthe US is only a decade away from workable nuclear fusion power, if nobody has been doing anything to keep setting their efforts back.

This is the way DC keeps its subjects in line -- with a steady diet of fear. That way, we will humbly look to our overlords for protection, and will surrender whatever they demand, whether it be our children to serve in DC's armies of "liberation" or tax dollars.

their clear wish to resurrect the ancient Persian empire

????

This is the way DC keeps its subjects in line -- with a steady diet of fear.

Yeah, and the old south did it with whips and chains. Then, after they lost, with guns, bombs, lynching, and terror.

I ain't buying what you're selling, Old Reb.

Hey russell, could you email me about something when you get a chance?

russell,

DC's slanted version of history makes the expansion of its power appear to be an unquestionable force for good. So wherever the Great Liberator goes, it claims a Divine Mandate to invade and bomb anyone, anytime. It's for their own good, you see.

Today's version of that lie is playing out at Bagram and Gitmo. If you like empire, then join in the chorus and sing "glory, glory, hallelujah!" I'll pass.

DC's slanted version of history makes the expansion of its power appear to be an unquestionable force for good.

I see all kinds of slanted versions of history out there.

Eric, I just sent my email address to the kitty.

In 1948 many Kremlinologists were saying "five to ten years," when in fact the Soviets had a usable bomb in 1949. In 1948 an engineer in Look magazine predicted the Soviets would get the bomb in 1954. Many scientists predicted 1952 and some thought 1970. The Joint Chiefs of Staff were predicted the mid- to late 1950s.

Were any of those people making those predictions aware that we had spies giving Moscow H-bomb plans? Because, absent those, those predictions were probably right.

The spies thing, while not irrelevant, is overdone.

It is strongly suggested that Igor Kurchatov didn't let his scientists have much access to the stolen work because he feared that it might be misinformation, and because he didn't really trust his scientists.

The atomic spies had more to do with the technologically more tricky (for the 1940s) hydrogen bomb, more than the plutonium bomb.

A flip side of Eric's list would be a list of all the countries who were thought to be 5-10 years away until they already had nuclear weapons. So far as I can tell that list would include:

USSR--actually acquired 1949
China--actually acquired 1964
India--actually acquired 1974
Pakistan--actually acquired 1998

The only other states with nuclear weapons are the UK, France, and presumeably Israel (perhaps NK depending on how you want to interpret the 2006 test).

So of the 7 nuclear powers outside the US, 4 of them were thought to be 5-10 years away from gettting nuclear power right up until the day of their actual nuclear tests.

All of the unfriendly ones were thought to be 5-10 years away.

The case of India was especially surprising at the time, as was Pakistan.

There was also an exceedingly close call with Iraq in 1990 which would not have been discovered until after nuclear testing if Saddam hadn't invaded Kuwait--a failure causing the UN completely revamped the inspection apparatus afterward.

The atomic spies had more to do with the technologically more tricky (for the 1940s) hydrogen bomb, more than the plutonium bomb.

Uh, yeah, that's why I said H-bomb. (The "H" stands for "hydrogen.")(See also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydrogen.)

Well then why are you responding to the quotes on the A-bomb?

You're awfully snarky for someone who apparently wasn't even really responding to my quotes.

The testimony was that the Soviets wouldn't even be able to get the much easier to produce A-bomb for many years. Then they immediately did.


"Because, absent those, those predictions were probably right."

This doesn't make sense if you are strictly limiting to the H-bomb.

The predictions weren't just about the H-bomb.

So were you just off topic? Confused?

Workable fusion power is a heck of a lot harder than nuclear bombs, Slart. Nucli don't want to fuse under the circumstances WE want them to fuse under: Controllably, on small scale.

OTOH, I have seen a conceptual design for a fusion power plant using nuclear bombs as "fuel pellets". THAT we could start building next year, if we wanted a single power plant to power half the continent at it's lowest power setting...

And while you're being snarky, I'm surprised you didn't catch my miscue of plutonium vs. uranium bomb. It is almost as if neither of us are paying attention.

But to sum up. They weren't talking about the bomb which the spies impacted. So raising the spies is orthogonal to the correct point that the predictions were bad.

And so far as I can tell, the intelligence community has never been right about those predictions (always guessing that it was years away up until the day of the nuclear tests of the USSR, China, India and Pakistan).

Seb:

However, there is a consistent pattern with Iran. It's remarkable that they were wrong in the other direction with all of those other states, and yet continue to peg Iran as on the verge of attaining a nuke. For 20 years they've been on that verge.

Which should tell us something, I believe, about Iran's intentions to actually build said nuke.

So of the 7 nuclear powers outside the US, 4 of them were thought to be 5-10 years away from gettting nuclear power right up until the day of their actual nuclear tests.

This is not actually true. In 1964, a US NIE estimated that India was "one to three years away" from a bomb. In fact the Indian programme hit several problems, and it didn't test until 1974.
China and the USSR, meanwhile, were closed states. There certainly weren't UN inspectors pottering around the Soviet bomb factories.
I would be amazed if you can find some official estimate from the late 1990s that Pakistan was "at least 5-10 years away from a bomb". I think you may be shaping the facts to fit your argument.

The nuclear ties between Pakistan and North Korea were thought to be under control in 1998. The Pakistani nuclear program was thought to be almost entirely frozen during the 1993-1998 period.

But in fact, it wasn't even slowed down during that period.

Intelligence assessments of nuclear programs just don't have a good track record. So far as I can tell, there isn't a single case where they have done anything but dramatically underestimate the capability of any of the countries that got nuclear weapons.

So far as I can tell, there isn't a single case where they have done anything but dramatically underestimate the capability of any of the countries that got nuclear weapons.

Sort of. There were some estimates from certain intel shops about the USSR that were right on target.

And then, of course, there's the case of Iran - which hasn't got them yet, but for which we are continually putting on the verge of acquiring. So, while true that we have a bad track record with states that have got them now, there is that one state that doesn't have them for which we repeatedly overestimate their capability. Or, rather, intention.

I'm not arguing for any particular basket of anything with the observation, I'm just suggesting that strongly trusting 5-10 assessments can't be based on a good (or even remotely good) intelligence community track record.

"Sort of. There were some estimates from certain intel shops about the USSR that were right on target."

Yes, the Air Force got it right and was dismissed by the rest of the intelligence community and ultimately by the White House.

"So, while true that we have a bad track record with states that have got them now, there is that one state that doesn't have them for which we repeatedly overestimate their capability. Or, rather, intention."

An alternative explanation is that Iran is one of the few states which has both cared what the international community thought (i.e. not North Korea, which is willing to beggar its people for complete control) and which the international community has actually bothered to exert real pressure against.

I don't know what if anything we can/should do. But blithely citing 5-10 years off without being aware of the abysmal history of the intelligence community with respect to such predicitions (wrong about *every* single state that got them) seems like a really bad start to whatever analysis we want to make.

(wrong about *every* single state that got them)

Yes, and wrong about a handful of states that didn't get them. It has cut both ways at times.

For the most part it hasn't cut the other way. Iran. They missed South Africa entirely. They were wrong in the overly hopeful way for Iraq before Kuwait, which contributed to overreaction the other way when it looked like Saddam was hiding stuff afterward. Do you have other examples in mind? Because that isn't much.

I was thinking Iraq. And Iran. But I never said it was much. All I said was, "It has cut both ways at times."

Sebastian, you are right. I posted in haste and wasn't following the direction of conversation. My bad.

Absent all the reasons those predictions were wrong, they were clearly right.

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