The Possession and use of Nuclear Weapons (Part 2)

Donald Trump recently wrote the following tweet :

Image result for donald trump nuclear weapons tweet

I am not interested in a discussion about the correct interpretation of his tweet. In the next few posts we will seek to understand the nature and ethical questions concerning nuclear weapons.

So, what is a nuclear blast like?

Environmental Impact

When a nuclear explosion occurs a fireball begins to form in less than a millionth of a second. A radioactive mushroom cloud containing dirt and debris from the earth’s surface is created. A blast and a shock wave from the cloud is emitted and it can stretch to about 3 miles.

A wall of pressure is created by the explosion. The pressure wall is responsible for a significant portion of the damage from the blast.

Image result for images of hiroshima and nagasaki

Human Toll

Some people may experience temporary blindness and burning of the retina simply by looking at the blast!
Death comes in multiple forms after a nuclear explosion. A firestorm developed when the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. Many people died as a result of heat and suffocation.

The shock wave from the blast can rupture eardrums and lungs. People can be thrown to their deaths from being launched at a high rate of speed. The thermal radiation can burn skin and create fires over large areas. A nuclear bomb can create a firestorm that would certainly increase the number of casualties.

Here is a visual image of the effects of a nuclear bomb.


Radiation is released within a minute of the initial blast. Fetuses can suffer from mental retardation as a result of the radiation. The radiation can also lead to the formation of cataracts. Here is a video that shows the impact of a nuclear bomb.

Quick facts about the Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki


  • The bomb – named ‘Fat Man’ for its round, tubby shape, apparently after Winston Churchill – was dropped at 11.02am on 9 August 1945 by the B-29 bomber, Bockscar.
  • It was 3.2 metres long and weighed 4.5 tons
  • Element: plutonium 239
  • It exploded about 470 metres above the ground.
  • Destructive energy: equal to 21,000 tons of TNT.
  • About 74,000 people died by the end of 1945.
  • Eighty per cent of homes within two kilometres of the hypocentre were wrecked.


  • The bomb named ‘Little Boy’ was dropped by the Enola Gay, a Boeing B-29, at 8.15am on 6 August 1945.
  • It was 3 metres long and weighed four tons.
  • Element: uranium 235.
  • The bomb exploded 580 metres above the city.
  • The air temperature on detonation exceeded 1 million degrees Celsius.
  • The energy released by the bomb was equal to about 15,000 tons of TNT.
  • About 140,000 of Hiroshima’s 350,000 people were estimated to have died by the end of 1945.
  • The city was almost completely destroyed.

Creating an Effective and Humane Immigration Policy (Part 3)

Related image

Visa Suspension

President Trump will suspend issuance of visas to immigrants if we can’t thoroughly screen them. This seems like a reasonable demand. It is not clear what Trump wants to add to our current vetting process. I think this measure is more concerned with refugees. Here is what Trump said on June 13th, 2016 in a speech on terrorism and immigration: “There is “no system to vet” refugees from the Middle East.”

Here is our current vetting process for refugees:

The Screening Process for Refugee Entry Into the United States
Recurrent vetting: Throughout this process, pending applications continue to be checked against terrorist databases, to ensure new, relevant terrorism information has not come to light. If a match is found, that case is paused for further review. Applicants who continue to have no flags continue the process. If there is doubt about whether an applicant poses a security risk, they will not be admitted.

1. Many refugee applicants identify themselves to the U.N. Refugee Agency, UNHCR. UNHCR, then:
o Collects identifying documents
o Performs initial assessment
 Collects biodata: name, address, birthday, place of birth, etc.
 Collects biometrics: iris scans (for Syrians, and other refugee populations in the Middle East)
o Interviews applicants to confirm refugee status and the need for resettlement
 Initial information checked again
o Only applicants who are strong candidates for resettlement move forward (less than 1% of global refugee population).
2. Applicants are received by a federally-funded Resettlement Support Center (RSC):
o Collects identifying documents
o Creates an applicant file
o Compiles information to conduct biographic security checks
3. Biographic security checks start with enhanced interagency security checks
Refugees are subject to the highest level of security checks of any category of traveler to the United States.
o U.S. security agencies screen the candidate, including:
 National Counterterrorism Center/Intelligence Community
 Department of Homeland Security
 State Department
o The screening looks for indicators, like:
 Information that the individual is a security risk
 Connections to known bad actors
 Outstanding warrants/immigration or criminal violations
o DHS conducts an enhanced review of Syrian cases, which may be referred to USCIS Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate for review. Research that is used by the interviewing officer informs lines of question related to the applicant’s eligibility and credibility.
4. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)/USCIS interview:
o Interviews are conducted by USCIS Officers specially trained for interviews
o Fingerprints are collected and submitted (biometric check)
o Re-interviews can be conducted if fingerprint results or new information raises questions. If new biographic information is identified by USCIS at an interview, additional security checks on the information are conducted. USCIS may place a case on hold to do additional research or investigation. Otherwise, the process continues.
5. Biometric security checks:
o Applicant’s fingerprints are taken by U.S. government employees
 Fingerprints are screened against the FBI’s biometric database.
 Fingerprints are screened against the DHS biometric database, containing watch-list information and previous immigration encounters in the U.S. and overseas.
 Fingerprints are screened against the U.S. Department of Defense biometric database, which includes fingerprint records captured in Iraq and other locations.
o If not already halted, this is the end point for cases with security concerns. Otherwise, the process continues.
6. Medical check:
o The need for medical screening is determined
o This is the end point for cases denied due to medical reasons. Refugees may be provided medical treatment for communicable diseases such as tuberculosis.
7. Cultural orientation and assignment to domestic resettlement locations:
o Applicants complete cultural orientation classes.
o An assessment is made by a U.S.-based non-governmental organization to determine the best resettlement location for the candidate(s). Considerations include:
 Family; candidates with family in a certain area may be placed in that area.
 Health; a candidate with asthma may be matched to certain regions.
o A location is chosen.
8. Travel:
o International Organization for Migration books travel
o Prior to entry in the United States, applicants are subject to:
 Screening from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s National Targeting Center-Passenger
 The Transportation Security Administration’s Secure Flight Program
o This is the end point for some applicants. Applicants who have no flags continue the process.
9. U.S. Arrival:
o All refugees are required to apply for a green card within a year of their arrival to the United States, which triggers:
 Another set of security procedures with the U.S. government.
o Refugees are woven into the rich fabric of American society!

Notice that Trump’s measure number 8 is included in step 5 of the current vetting process. What is missing? What will make this process more robust?


Stopping Businesses from Hiring Undocumented Workers

Image result for US processing refugees

One way to accomplish measure 9 is to require all employers to use the national e-verify system. The system is provided by the Department of Homeland Security and it is available online for free. All federal employees are required to use it, but private companies should be required to use the system as well.

Measure 10 seems vague, so I’m not sure what steps are necessary to carry out its requirements.

After assessing all of the points of Trump’s immigration plan we are left wondering if we have anything here that might significantly reduce the number of immigrants entering the country illegally.

What do you think?

Creating an Effective and Humane Immigration Policy (Part 2)

Ending Sanctuary Cities

We must get clear on the meaning of the term “sanctuary city” before we can perform a proper assessment of this measure. The term probably originated in the 1980s and it referred to churches that sheltered refugees who fled from violence in Guatemala and El Salvador. Today, it’s difficult to figure out the proper object of the term. Attorney Lena Graber states the problem this way:

“There is no definition of a sanctuary city,” says Lena Graber, an attorney at the Immigrant Legal Resource Center in San Francisco. She says different places have taken different approaches. “There are a lot of sanctuary policies that are more just about not asking about immigration status by city agencies or law enforcement,” she says, while other jurisdictions are called “sanctuaries” because their jails won’t hold people at the request of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Perhaps this term is used to label cities that do not ‘cooperate’ with federal law enforcement agencies. Which cities are guilty of this infraction? If cities are guilty of being uncooperative, they seem to do so out of deference to the 4th Amendment or practical reasons. NPR writes:

… the jails that don’t honor ICE “detainer” requests often do it for reasons that are practical, not political.

The jail in Lafayette Parish, La., for instance, stopped honoring ICE detainers out of a fear of lawsuits by people who might be able to claim they’re being held illegally.

“We’re depriving them of their liberty,” says Sheriff Mark Garber, “on a suspicion that hadn’t been investigated promptly or acted on at all.”

Sheriff Garber says when his predecessor realized the federal government wouldn’t indemnify the parish in case of lawsuits, he stopped honoring ICE detainer requests. But that led to accusations that the parish had become a “sanctuary,” especially during the last sheriff’s election. So when Garber took over, he instituted a compromise policy: the Lafeyette jail will hold people, but for no longer than 48 hours.

“I’m still taking a risk to cooperate with the federal government, because they’re not offering me any reciprocal protection,” Garber says. “I still think we’re exposed, but I’m choosing as the leader in this community to go ahead and draw the bright line at the 48 hours.”

Those bright lines are drawn differently in almost every jurisdiction. The King County jail in downtown Seattle, for instance, has a policy of honoring only the ICE detainer requests that come with an order from a judge. Other places take the severity of the person’s criminal record into account.

I suspect that the kind of city Trump has in mind is San Francisco .

Image result for san francisco

On the evening of July 1, 2015, Kate Steinle was killed by an undocumented immigrate. The alleged shooter is Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez. He said he found the gun wrapped in a T-shirt and accidentally shot Steinle. There is evidence to rebut his claim. The gun was stolen on June 27, 2015 from the personal vehicle of an officer of the Bureau of Land Management and the window of the vehicle was broken.

Lopez-Sanchez has a felony record and was deported five times. Steinle’s family filed a lawsuit that calls San Francisco a sanctuary city. Trump has vowed to pass legislation in her name.

There are some mitigating factors in the case against the city of San Francisco, however. First, none of Lopez-Sanchez’s felony convictions were for violent crimes. Second, the ICE detainer request would have done nothing to save Steinle’s life because it requires detention for only 48 additional hours. As was said earlier, Steinle was killed on July 1, 2015, but Lopez-Sanchez was released from the San Francisco County Jail on April 15, 2015.

More than 200 state and local jurisdictions have policies that could be labeled as sanctuary policies. Policies like these exist in Rhode Island, Connecticut, Vermont, Florida, Iowa, and Colorado.

Why would any jurisdiction adopt such policies?

The first reason a jurisdiction might adopt these policies is because immigration enforcement falls within the purview of the federal government. Second, the ICE detainer request requires a person to jail someone without a warrant. Third, victims of crimes may be reluctant to come forward out fear of deportation, thus leading to criminals who may go free to commit more crimes for lack of evidence.

Image result for portland oregon

A case in Portland, Oregon reveals the legal and monetary liabilities of ‘cooperating’ with the ICE detainer. Here are the results of a federal case brought against Clackamas County:

The case originated in Portland, Oregon, and a federal magistrate judge ruled that an undocumented immigrant’s rights had been violated after she was held in county jail for 19 hours past her original release date. The ruling left Clackamas County liable for damages, putting small town departments on the hook for lawsuits if immigrants decided to take legal action for being unlawfully detained.

The ruling had a large-scale ripple effect across the country. All told, there are now 364 counties and 39 cities that refuse to cooperate with ICE, according to data collected by the Immigrant Legal Resource Center. Police chiefs and sheriffs decided that it was no longer worth opening up their departments to lawsuits in order to simply do ICE a favor.

What do you think?

Creating an Effective and Humane Immigration Policy (Part 1)

Malkov Picture

Immigration reform is a legitimate policy priority for any presidential candidate. The real question is how do we create an effective and humane immigration policy? Donald Trump has offered a ten point immigration plan. The task of our next posts is to assess the merits and demerits of his plan.

Trump’s immigration plan is featured on his campaign website. The ten points are:

1. Begin working on an impenetrable physical wall on the southern border, on day one. Mexico will pay for the wall.
2. End catch-and-release. Under a Trump administration, anyone who illegally crosses the border will be detained until they are removed out of our country.
3. Move criminal aliens out day one, in joint operations with local, state, and federal law enforcement. We will terminate the Obama administration’s deadly, non-enforcement policies that allow thousands of criminal aliens to freely roam our streets.
4. End sanctuary cities.
5. Immediately terminate President Obama’s two illegal executive amnesties. All immigration laws will be enforced – we will triple the number of ICE agents. Anyone who enters the U.S. illegally is subject to deportation. That is what it means to have laws and to have a country.
6. Suspend the issuance of visas to any place where adequate screening cannot occur, until proven and effective vetting mechanisms can be put into place.
7. Ensure that other countries take their people back when we order them deported.
8. Ensure that a biometric entry-exit visa tracking system is fully implemented at all land, air, and sea ports.
9. Turn off the jobs and benefits magnet. Many immigrants come to the U.S. illegally in search of jobs, even though federal law prohibits the employment of illegal immigrants.
10. Reform legal immigration to serve the best interests of America and its workers, keeping immigration levels within historic norms.

We will break up his plan into three parts and test the strength of each component.

It should be said upfront that Trump can accomplish measures 2, 3 and 5 quite easily.

Building an Impenetrable Wall

We will begin with the current facts about the border. The US-Mexico border is approximately 1,900 miles long. About 650 miles of the border is covered by some form of fence or other structure. Trump thinks his border will require him to wall 1,000 miles and natural obstacles will cover the rest.

Building the wall is fraught will difficulties. First, there is the question of materials. The wall will require 339 million cubic feet of concrete if concrete is the material of choice. This estimate assumes the wall will be buried five feet deep and 20 feet high. Obviously, more resources will be required with any expansion of this project.

Second, the price for such a wall seems exorbitant. A conservative estimate of the cost of the wall is $12 billion.

Third, topographical problems exist because the wall will have to pass through remote desert area in Arizona and rugged mountains in New Mexico for two-thirds the length of the wall.

A 20 foot high wall will do little to stop immigrants from entering the U.S. because immigrants can simply dig underground. Immigrants took this measure in order to negotiate a 30 foot wall in Nogales, Arizona.

Digging the wall deep underground may do little to prevent drug smugglers because they dig tunnels into drainage systems. If that is not enough, some tunnels go as deep as 90 feet. A 90 foot deep wall will take us well beyond any feasible budget.

Image result for anderson cooper underground tunnel

Here is CNN’s Anderson Cooper navigating a 80-90 feet deep tunnel.

Technological Measures

Perhaps technological advances might do the trick. Problems persist even for this measure. Our technology often can’t differentiate between tunnels and underground cracks, water tables, tree roots, and caves. Our technology is not effective at the 90 feet depth we mentioned earlier.

Syrian Carnage (Part 4)

Here is the final post in this series. I present my tentative position on this issue.

I must admit, I’m inclined to hold a hybrid view consisting of measures II, III, and VI. First, we should take advantage of the quasi safe zone created by Turkish forces to shelter Syrian refugees. Second, we should withdraw from the region as much as possible because of the lessons we’ve learned from trying to arm the rebels in Syria and our failed intervention in Iraq. Third, we should try to strike a deal at the negotiating table. Philip Gordon, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, has provided what I think is, at least, a first draft of a diplomatic approach. I will quote him at length:

Diplomacy and De-escalation

To end the conflict in Syria, the United States should pursue a course of action consisting of the following steps:

Institutionalize a diplomatic process with all parties involved. The October 30 and November 14 multilateral meetings in Vienna, for the first time including Iran and Saudi Arabia, were a useful first step. Participants agreed on basic principles, including preserving Syria’s unity, independence, and territorial integrity, and on the need for a political process that would ultimately lead to a new constitution and elections. While influential countries remain deeply divided on the question of whether, how, or when to require Assad’s departure, only by hammering out issues collectively and realizing the high costs of maximalist positions can the gaps be narrowed. When the Bosnia “Contact Group” was created as the war there raged in the early 1990s, the United States, Europe, and Russia were all far apart on key issues. They ultimately compromised, imposed a solution on recalcitrant local parties, and agreed on a settlement that has kept the peace in Bosnia for two decades.

Initiate a bilateral U.S. back-channel process with Russia. Because no agreement on the most sensitive issues can be reached with nearly twenty participants around a table, the United States should pursue back-channel discussions with Russia at the highest levels. The objective would be a quid pro quo that assures Moscow that the Assad regime will not collapse in exchange for a cease-fire between the regime and the opposition, and joint focus on the Islamic State. If Russia continues to insist on propping up the regime and indiscriminately bombing all elements of the opposition, the United States and others will maintain their support for opposition fighters, the war will go on, and Russia will alienate the Sunni world and become a growing target for terrorists. The October 31 bombing of a Russian airliner over the Sinai and the November 24 downing of a Russian fighter jet by Turkey underscore the risks for Russia in the absence of a settlement. But if Moscow is willing to press for policy changes from Damascus—including support for a cease-fire, recognition of opposition autonomy in parts of the country, and a process for longer-term leadership changes—a diplomatic agreement might be possible.

Pursue a cease-fire between the regime and the opposition. The goals of an agreement would include an end to both sides’ offensive operations, including regime aerial attacks; devolution of power so that regions currently held by the opposition can govern themselves; the uninhibited provision of humanitarian assistance to both sides; and the adoption of a political process to determine political leaders and structures to govern an ultimately unified Syria. Given the extremely fragmented nature of the opposition, with no single authority in control and even moderate groups now fighting alongside extremists, it will be nearly impossible to prevent some violations of a cease-fire even if an agreement is reached. But if Russia and Iran were able to guarantee an end to the regime’s attacks on the opposition and the provision of humanitarian aid, supporters of the opposition would be well placed to press their clients to accept a cease-fire by threatening to cut off assistance for those who refuse. The Islamic State would not be party to the cease-fire and would continue to be targeted. International peacekeepers might be required to police the agreement, but the risks of deploying them would be significantly reduced if all the external powers were committed to the deal.

Defer the question of Assad. There is no doubt that Assad is a brutal dictator who deserves to face justice. The question, however, is whether the pursuit of that elusive goal is worth the costs of an unending war or the consequences of the military escalation that would be necessary to end the war. The United States and others do not have to abandon their position that Assad has lost legitimacy and that Syria will not be fully stable—or accepted by the international community—as long as he is in place. And they could condition support for a cease-fire on a political process that would determine the country’s eventual political structure and leadership. But they should not allow disagreement over Assad’s fate to be the obstacle to reducing the violence, if other elements of an agreement could be reached. Those countries most determined to see Assad’s departure—such as Saudi Arabia and Turkey—will resist such an outcome, but a clear U.S. position and clarity that the United States will not support military escalation could help bring about their acquiescence. Many weary Syrians, and a growing number of countries, even in the Arab world, would welcome an end to the fighting even if it was not accompanied by immediate regime change in Damascus.

Gordon has a military component to his plan, but I reject that option for the reasons written in the previous blogs. I think Syria has seen enough of war.

I’m open to being argued out of my position. What do you think?

Syrian Carnage (Part 3)


VI. Diplomacy: Is this measure possible? Trita Parsi teaches at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University in Washington DC. He writes,

It’s been clear for some time now, however, that Assad is neither so weak that he will lose, nor so strong that he can easily win. In short there is a stalemate, which provides fertile ground for negotiations to achieve a durable cease-fire. The failure of all sides to pursue talks has now resulted in roughly 120,000 deaths with no other outcome except an unsatisfactory stalemate.

Washington and Moscow have not given Annan or the current U.N. envoy, veteran diplomat Lahkdar Brahimi, the political support needed to succeed with their missions. In Annan’s own words, the diplomatic process “requires courage and leadership, most of all from the permanent members of the Security Council, including from Presidents Putin and Obama.”

This measure might slow or perhaps stop the growing body count in the region. Additionally, the body count will increase while talks continue and there doesn’t seem to be a clear avenue for providing humanitarian aid while talks proceed.
VII. Hybrid View. Perhaps you think some combination of these actions will provide the best course of action.
VIII. Other. I’m quite interested in hearing more options. Fresh thought is much needed in this debate.

While thinking through the options I would encourage you to ask yourself which lessons from Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, or Kosovo are relevant here? Should regime change be a viable option? I ask this question because it seems to some that the power vacuum we created in Iraq through de-Baathification contributed to Syria’s current crisis.

What are our most fruitful options?

Don’t hesitate to leave comments in the comment section!

Syrian Carnage (Part 2)

This is the second post in our series on the Syrian Crisis.

A Russian Mi-28 helicopter patrols the area around Hmeimym airbase in Latakia province, Syria [Sergei Chirikov/EPA]

V. Introduce ground troops and launch a full-scale war: Loren Thompson was Deputy Director of the Security Studies Program at Georgetown University and taught graduate-level courses in strategy, technology and media affairs. He also taught at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. Loren lists the following drawbacks of placing boots on the ground:

1. It will give the terrorists easy targets. ISIS operatives are working hard to find American targets they can strike, but there aren’t many suitable sites within reach. Deploying U.S. troops nearby would make their task much easier.
2. It will provide captives for influencing U.S. policy. ISIS has proven adept at manipulating public opinion through the use of social media. Beheadings and immolations of hostages have been especially effective at terrifying target populations, while recruiting new jihadists to the cause. If the U.S. persists in sending troops to isolated locations where they could be ambushed and captured, it is obvious they will be used as pawns to undermine American resolve.
3. It will take the pressure off local forces to perform….. If American forces take a leading role in the battle against ISIS, that will take the pressure off indigenous groups to fight tenaciously in defense of their homelands. Sending U.S. troops might get the job done quicker, but what Washington really needs is to build up local military forces so they can keep the peace after ISIS is gone.
4. It will lead to taking sides in civil wars. ISIS has managed to hold territory in Syria and Iraq because they are failed states, wracked by civil war. Dictators in both countries have periodically resorted to brutal repression of their populations, and it is only the waning of their power that allowed ISIS to take root. But with so many ethnic and religious factions now pursuing wildly divergent goals, it is inevitable that any U.S. ground presence will run afoul of local rivalries.
5. It will become a force of occupation. The U.S. military had largely wiped out an earlier incarnation of the group that originated in Anbar province before withdrawing, but the group was able to rebuild in what is often referred to by outsiders as the “vacuum” that followed America’s presence. President Obama argues convincingly that if U.S. troops lead the fight to defeat ISIS, then some new group of extremists will likely again rise up after the Americans are gone. His solution of building up local governments and militaries so they can control their territories is messy and frustrating, but the alternative is U.S. troops staying forever — which would begin to look like the return of colonialism.

This option would most likely draw the U.S. into a long and protracted war.

Syrian Carnage (Part 1)

My next four posts are meant to foster discussion about the Syrian crisis. I will give my position in the last post.

The Syrian crisis continues with an increasing civilian body count. Bashar al-Assad has even resorted to using chlorine gas to advance his political agenda. What should we do besides digging more graves for more bodies? Here are some options:

I. Create a no-fly zone: A potential drawback of this measure is it would be a logistical nightmare because tens of thousands of personnel, fighters, tankers, and AWACS aircraft will be needed. Secondly, according to General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, this measure would essentially amount to going to war with Syria and Russia because Russia currently controls Syrian air space. We might shoot down a Russian aircraft and thereby trigger a war. Conflict with Russia is made all the more imminent since Russia has warned that an attack, even on the Syrian government forces, is an attack on Russia.
II. Create a safe zone for Syrian refugees: This is a viable option because Turkish troops are in Syria and have created a germinal safe zone of operations along their border.
A possible drawback is the zone does almost nothing for the contested region of Aleppo.

Training Syrian rebels has been exceedingly difficult. The US spent $ 500 million to try to train thousands of fighters. We successfully trained only a handful of fighters. The US has basically failed at this task. In fact, some of the fighters surrendered their weapons when confronted by ISIS fighters. Rebel surrender of weapons is tantamount to the US arming of ISIS.III. Withdraw from the conflict entirely: Positively speaking, this measure  means the US will incur less culpability for the bloodshed in the region. However, ISIS will continue to grow and Syria will become an unrestricted launch pad for global terrorism.

IV. Arm and train the rebels: This measure will prove difficult because we are not sure about the identity of the rebels? Most candidates failed to pass through our vetting process. Christine Wormuth, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, admitted that our vetting process filtered a number of potential fighters.

Keep in mind; we have already seen disaster in our intervention into Syria. There is evidence to suggest that the rebels that were armed by the CIA may have used those weapons against the rebels armed by the Pentagon!

Don’t hesitate to leave comments in the comment section!