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March 30, 2010

Comments

Cheryl,

I have enjoyed both of your posts, informative, reasonably politics free. I have one question, do you include at least one, "just sayin" about a woman in a key position in every post?

I smiled when I read it in the first one. I was a little put off when I read it in the second one. I assume many of the talented people in key positions in our government are women.

If you had pointed out the the Ambassador was Laura Kennedy, with a link, I would have just gone to read it to find out more about her. The "just sayin" just seems out of character in such a serious and high quality post.

Serious and high quality. Sigh.

Perhaps I could have left out "just sayin'". I certainly would have if I were writing for a serious and high quality dead-tree journal in an attempt to become a member of the Very Serious People. I gave up on that some time ago; have an unfortunate tendency to giggle at the wrong moments.

I really, really like it, though, that the people who have done the hard work and made this happen have been women on the US side. And I'd like others to appreciate this.

I suspect that reactions to this (both the fact and my ways of saying it) are going to vary. I'm old enough that it's worth noting, more than once. Younger people have grown up in the world I fought for and so can be more casual about it, and that's good.

But still, too often, default is male.

So I'll apologize to those who found that comment inappropriate, but I'll probably keep doing such things.

It's interesting, I remember when Carla Hills was the head of the US delegation to Japan for trade talks, and the fact that the delegation was led by a woman really unbalanced the Japanese. In this 1988 piece by Clyde Farnsworth notes that the US employed more women as trade negotiators, and I'm wondering if that has carried over into arms negotiations. As the Farnsworth piece notes, officials who are (were?) not used to dealing with career women in their own country were/are taken aback when confronted with them as part of the US negotiating team.

I can see where there might be some advantages (and, perhaps, some disadvantages) in having a woman heading our negotiating team when dealing with men from cultures where women are held in low esteem. And some of those we will be dealing with make the Japanese look really broad-minded on that front. Do your experiences speak to that?

I'm not sure and that's what I was trying to get at with my comment. It seemed to be a conscious strategy on the part of the US to utilize more women for trade negotiations precisely because for their unbalancing effect, but I'm wondering how (un)similar trade negotiations are to arms reductions negotiations. Also, one of the biggest targets in arms negotiations might be the North Koreans, and it is really hard to say what esteem they hold women, because you have a rhetoric of equality and shared sacrifice (Libya is another example of that, with Gaddhafi's attempts to push for female equality running into entrenched norms)

I meant to mention this yesterday and I see Marty has more or less mentioned it, too: I've learned more about nuclear arms control from your last two ObiWi posts than I've learned from the last, er, bunch of years of mainstream media.

Thanks!

Model 62,

There's a reason I invited Cheryl to post here ;)

Yeah, these are good posts. I very much agree with the idea that it's the verification that's the problem. You've got two continent-spanning superpowers, both with enormously effective secrecy regimes, both with a long history of paranoia especially regarding each other, both of whom have had nuclear weapons programs for 65 years. It is a near-certainty that both believe that the other maintains a secret reserve of weapons & delivery systems completely outside of even the normal (secret) record-keeping, and with each having an entire continent to hide them in, it will be extremely difficult to build the trust necessary to go to very low levels of weapons.

I think the best that can be hoped for in the next decade or two is very incremental progress like this. I think it's unrealistic to expect to go to zero weapons while grave ideological differences divide the major powers of the world, while small rogue states with the ability to develop nuclear weapons continue to exist completely outside of the constraints of the "international community", and until the UN shows some real ability to be an alternative for resolving serious conflicts between major powers.

To some extent I think that's not even a bad thing; or rather, the bad thing is the lack of all those other things to head off war, and not the nukes themselves. In a zero-nukes world where nuclear weapons are known to be possible, where various powers have previously possessed huge stockpiles, where the designs for bombs and for equipment for manufacturing bombs still exist (which they always will), where the raw materials for bombs remain part of the civilian power generation system, the threat of nuclear escalation will remain. And even if it that threat didn't exist, it is clear that warfare between major industrialized powers is quite capable of producing and delivering levels of destruction comparable to nuclear warfare, if over a longer period.

What ready-to-use nuclear weapons do is actualize and concentrate that destructive force into the first few hours of a major conflict. There can be no pretending that we can win, that a war between major industrial powers can remain constrained, that back on the home front things will be largely undisturbed. You can't pretend that when hundreds of nuclear missiles are ready to be launched at the cities of your nation.

Of course this is insane, but I try to keep in mind that the situation in the pre-nuclear world was no less insane. Nations embarked on disastrous wars with other industrial nations even after the wars of the 19th century, even after WWI. People are somewhat insane, and eager to be persuaded that the next war can be won without devastation. To me there is no question that there would have been further WWII-scale wars throughout the 20th century without the nuclear standoff.

But: even in their role as instantaneous actualizers of the destructive power of warfare, we don't need tens of thousands of warheads, and having that many has its own problems - keeping control, the cost, retaining extensive maintenance and remanufacturing facilities, etc. But I think there is a lower limit while those constraints on non-violent resolution of international conflicts remain and while those difficulties in verification remain. I think the US & Russia could go to 500 ready-to-deliver warheads each and save a lot of money and reduce the risk of losing control of any of them. I can't think of a way down from there that doesn't bring its own set of major risks (and by that I mean just as much the risk that the US will do something stupid as that Russia would do... or perhaps more so, since the US today is much more oriented towards ideologically-based interventionism.)

500 would also bring us close to China's capability, which is a much more serious concern for this century than Russia. It would preempt a "catch-up" arms race from China. And I think it's possible that we'll feel that a world where a dozen powers have well-controlled stockpiles of a few hundred weapons is safer and more peaceful than one with two superpowers each with tens of thousands of weapons.

Jacob Davies: The game changes even more at 500 (or 300 or 200 or something in that range). That's the long, long game. I don't see the path after that either.

But once we get there, we will have a history of building trust through negotiations and verification, and all the nuclear weapons-holders will be players. It will be a very different world from today's.

And the paths will become clearer. They will probably involve conventional weapons as well, and other moves that make war less likely overall.

You've got two continent-spanning superpowers, both with enormously effective secrecy regimes, both with a long history of paranoia especially regarding each other, both of whom have had nuclear weapons programs for 65 years. It is a near-certainty that both believe that the other maintains a secret reserve of weapons & delivery systems completely outside of even the normal (secret) record-keeping, and with each having an entire continent to hide them in, it will be extremely difficult to build the trust necessary to go to very low levels of weapons.

Actually, those regimes can, counter intuitively, provide the mechanism to move forward. I remember reading that during one round of nuclear arms reduction, the Russians would, when decommissioning certain elements from the nuclear sub fleet, would place the disassembled and now unusable parts out on the dock. This is because it would allow the US spy satellites to photograph them. We actually had a pretty good idea of the military capacities of the Soviet Union and it was only with the 'B team' that things got out of whack. I suppose there is no way to prevent a paranoiac strain from emerging again, but hopefully, we'll be able to remember the last mistake for a decade or two.

Same with the B-52s being cut up and left in the desert. That's practical when you are demonstrating a major reduction from a high level, but I think when you get down to those last few hundred delivery systems it's going to be a slightly different story and a different, and deeper, kind of verification is going to be needed.

The FMCT will be part of that. Reactors are not as easy to hide as warheads.

She gets to play with nukes and lasers in far flung parts of the world? Cool! Seriously, for being someone who helped clean up a lot of the world after the collapse of the Soviet Union, you have my thanks. I have a friend who got to do something similar, and it's vital work.

Same with the B-52s being cut up and left in the desert.

Eh? B-52s are still deployed. Sure, there are dinosaurs at Davis Monthan, but there are spares versions of lots of things there.

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