The Questionable Vladimir Putin (Part 1)


It seems fashionable these days to speak well of Vladimir Putin. Is this the right political course of action? Why does Vladimir Putin raise concerns for so many people? Our next series of blog posts will be devoted to detailing the more unsavory actions of Vladimir Putin. I suspect you will think Vladimir Putin is a man of questionable character at the end of this series of posts.

Bombings of Moscow, Buinaksk, and Volgodonsk

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One of the most egregious charges against Vladimir Putin has to do with the bombings of apartments in Moscow, Buinaksk, and Volgodonsk. The bombings were used as a pretext for the second Chechen war.

In September 1999 apartments in Moscow, Buinaksk, and Volgodonsk were bombed and the attacks were attributed to Chechen rebels. Putin was head of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB ) at the time. Putin responded forcefully by vowing revenge against those who committed the bombings. His response to the bombings catapulted his reputation and allowed him to ascend to the presidency.

The official Russian narrative says that the bombings were carried out by Achemez Gochiyaev.

The Evidence

Cracks in the official story began to emerge as more evidence came to light. Remember, Boris Yeltsin was president and Putin was head of the FSB at the time. Yeltsin’ administration was in disrepute. Yeltsin fell into alcoholism and monetary corruption allegations were hovering over the administration. One of Yeltsin’s close associates, Boris Berezovsky was under investigation for embezzlement and Yeltsin’s daughters were said to have money stashed in Switzerland .

How do you get the country to place you in their good graces? Well, orchestrate a terrorist attack, of course. In June of 1999 Jan Blomgren of the Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet and Giulietto Chiesa, a Moscow correspondent for the Italian newspaper La Stampa, reported that there was going to be an act of “state terrorism.” To be clear, they suggested that Russia would attack its own people as a political calculation.

David Satter is a journalist and an expert on Russia. He is the also a fellow of the John Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. Satter rejects the official narrative and says that the bombings were carried out by the FSB where Putin was head. We will quote Satter’s evidence :

1. The explosive used in the four bombings was hexogen, which is used for topping off a new generation of Russian artillery shells.
2. Hexogen is produced in only two factories in Russia, both of which are tightly guarded by the FSB.
3. More disturbing, FSB agents were actually caught planting a bomb in the basement of a fifth building in the city of Ryazan. After they were arrested by local authorities, Nikolai Patrushev, the head of the FSB, offered the bizarre explanation that the bomb had been planted by the FSB as part of a training exercise to test the residents’ “vigilance.”

Mysteriously, those who tried to investigate the bombings were killed. Sergei Yushenkov, Yuri Shchekochikhin, Anna Politkovskaya, and Alexander Litvinenko are no longer with us. They all investigated the bombings and they were all murdered between 2003 and 2006.

All of this evidence shows that Putin was at least complicit in his duties. As Satter puts it, “All available evidence points to Putin’s complicity in the 1999 apartment-building bombings in Russia.”

Happy Birthday Martin Luther King?


I would like to bring to light a little known fact about America. Yesterday, January 15th, we celebrated Martin Luther King’s birthday. Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi celebrated Robert E. Lee’s birthday as well. The reason given for this sinister coupling is that legislators in these states did not want to create two holidays in the month of January.

These three states are not the only culprits. Arizona didn’t recognize MLK Day until 1992. This only happened because they lost millions of dollars as a result of a boycott by the NFL. Virginia recognized MLK Day along with Confederate General Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee until 2000. South Carolina made state employees “choose [to take holiday] between MLK Day or three other Confederate holidays” until 2000.

Why Celebrate Lee?

It is difficult to imagine a justification for a holiday in honor of Lee.

Lee fought to uphold a constitution that said, “In all such territory the institution of negro slavery, as it now exists in the Confederate States, shall be recognized and protected by Congress and by the Territorial government.”

Lee was a hard taskmaster. He broke up slave families and salves would run away from his plantation. Lee had runaways severely whipped for this infraction. A firsthand retelling of Lee’s brutality was written in the April 14, 1866 printing of the National Anti-Slavery Standard. Here is the account [1] of Wesley Norris, a recipient of one of the beatings ordered by Lee:

My name is Wesley Norris; I was born a slave on the plantation of George Parke Custis; after the death of Mr. Custis, Gen. Lee, who had been made executor of the estate, assumed control of the slaves, in number about seventy; it was the general impression among the slaves of Mr. Custis that on his death they should be forever free; in fact this statement had been made to them by Mr. C. years before; at his death we were informed by Gen. Lee that by the conditions of the will we must remain slaves for five years; I remained with Gen. Lee for about seventeen months, when my sister Mary, a cousin of ours, and I determined to run away, which we did in the year 1859; we had already reached Westminster, in Maryland, on our way to the North, when we were apprehended and thrown into prison, and Gen. Lee notified of our arrest; we remained in prison fifteen days, when we were sent back to Arlington; we were immediately taken before Gen. Lee, who demanded the reason why we ran away; we frankly told him that we considered ourselves free; he then told us he would teach us a lesson we never would forget; he then ordered us to the barn, where, in his presence, we were tied firmly to posts by a Mr. Gwin, our overseer, who was ordered by Gen. Lee to strip us to the waist and give us fifty lashes each, excepting my sister, who received but twenty; we were accordingly stripped to the skin by the overseer, who, however, had sufficient humanity to decline whipping us; accordingly Dick Williams, a county constable, was called in, who gave us the number of lashes ordered; Gen. Lee, in the meantime, stood by, and frequently enjoined Williams to lay it on well, an injunction which he did not fail to heed; not satisfied with simply lacerating our naked flesh, Gen. Lee then ordered the overseer to thoroughly wash our backs with brine, which was done. After this my cousin and myself were sent to Hanover Court-House jail, my sister being sent to Richmond to an agent to be hired; we remained in jail about a week, when we were sent to Nelson county, where we were hired out by Gen. Lee’s agent to work on the Orange and Alexander railroad; we remained thus employed for about seven months, and were then sent to Alabama, and put to work on what is known as the Northeastern railroad; in January, 1863, we were sent to Richmond, from which place I finally made my escape through the rebel lines to freedom; I have nothing further to say; what I have stated is true in every particular, and I can at any time bring at least a dozen witnesses, both white and black, to substantiate my statements: I am at present employed by the Government; and am at work in the National Cemetary on Arlington Heights, where I can be found by those who desire further particulars; my sister referred to is at present employed by the French Minister at Washington, and will confirm my statement. (Emphasis Mine)

This is probably how they looked after their beating:

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Again, Lee had slaves whipped and had brine, salt water, placed in their wounds.

What would Robert E. Lee have done to Martin Luther King if he tried to push for his rights in Lee’s day? How can both men be celebrated on the same day?

“Robert E. Lee: His Brutality to His Slaves” in National Anti-Slavery Standard Vol. XXVI. No. 49 (April 14, 1866). Whole No. 1,349. 4.

1. Wesley Norris’ account is located on the last page, column 4, of the linked document.

The Comey Probe

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What are we to make of FBI director James Comey’s actions? A recent intelligence briefing made Democrats irate. They say their confidence in Comey was shaken. Comey’s actions have drawn unwanted attention from the inspector general. Comey is now the subject of a probe by the inspector general. The probe will focus on Comey’s actions while investigating Hillary Clinton.

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Comey sent a letter to members of Congress two weeks before the presidential election. Some think the letter helped swing the election in Trump’s favor. Nate Silver, the famous statistician, said Clinton had an 81 percent chance of winning the election before the release of the letter. Her chances fell to 65 percent after the release of the letter. It is difficult to establish a causal relationship between the two numbers, but the change is at least a little suggestive.

Democrats think Comey is all too eager to disclose information that may be harmful to Democrats. This is due, in part, to the fact that he was willing to reveal information about the Clinton investigation before they reached a conclusion. In contrast, Comey was tight-lipped when asked about connections between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.

It is too early to say what is going on. Stay tuned to this blog as the probe continues.

The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) Update

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The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is a piece of legislation that is far from ideal. Many of its provisions should elicit debate and, quite frankly, should be repealed.

Yesterday, the House of Representatives held a roll call vote that would set the stage for a repeal of the ACA. There are many avenues Republicans can take. At minimum, I think they should not repeal the ACA until they have a better replacement. Another option is to improve rather than repeal the law. I don’t think House Republicans will concur. They should, at least, preserve the parts of the ACA that should remain.

Here are some of the provisions of the ACA that I think should be preserved:

  1. Free Preventive Care
  2. Prescription Discounts for Seniors
  3. Protection Against Health Care Fraud
  4. Small Business Tax Credits
  5. Pre-existing Conditions: Health insurers can no longer charge more or deny coverage to you or your child because of a pre-existing health condition like asthma, diabetes, or cancer.
  6. Consumer Assistance Protections
  7. Prescription drugs
  8. Health Insurance Marketplace
  9. Coverage available to children up to age 26
  10. Yearly Wellness Visits for Medicare Recipients
  11. Insurers must justify any premium increase of 10% or more before the rate takes effect
  12. Maternity and newborn care


The ACA requires that all plans in the Marketplace cover the same essential benefits:

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  • Ambulatory patient services (outpatient care you get without being admitted to a hospital)
  • Emergency services
  • Hospitalization (like surgery and overnight stays)
  • Rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices (services and devices to help people with injuries, disabilities, or chronic conditions gain or recover mental and physical skills)
  • Laboratory services
  • Preventive and wellness services and chronic disease management
  • Pediatric services, including oral and vision care
  • Breastfeeding coverage
  • Young adults can stay on their parent’s plans until 26.

The preventative care provisions cover:

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  • Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (“AAA”)
  • Alcohol misuse screening and counseling
  • Aspirin use to prevent cardiovascular disease (applies to both men and women of certain ages)
  • Adult blood pressure screening
  • Cholesterol screening for adults of certain ages and high-risk adults
  • Colorectal cancer screening for adults over 50
  • Adult depression screening
  • Type 2 Diabetes screening for adults who have high blood pressure
  • Diet counseling for adults who are at a higher risk for chronic disease
  • HIV screening for everyone ages 15 to 65 and for other ages if the person is at an increased risk
  • Adult immunization vaccines

The ACA makes a number of benefits available to Medicaid recipients:

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  1. Prescription Drugs: Changing the Medicaid prescription drug program by revising the definition of average manufacturer price (AMP), establishing a new formula for calculating the federal upper limit (FUL), increasing the rebate percentages for covered outpatient drugs, and extending the rebates to drugs dispensed to enrollees in managed care organizations. Also, preventing states from excluding tobacco cessation drugs from coverage.
  2. Tobacco Cessation Services for Pregnant Women: Providing comprehensive tobacco cessation services for pregnant women without cost-sharing.
  3. Hospice Care for Children: Assuring that children can receive curative treatment upon the election of the hospice benefit for children enrolled in Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
  4. Preventive and Obesity-Related Services: Allowing states to cover specified preventive services at no cost to Medicaid adult enrollees.

The benefits afforded to employees are:

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  1. Coverage offered to employees must be considered affordable (can’t cost more than 9.56% of employee household income) and must provide minimum value (must have an average cost sharing of 60%). If coverage isn’t affordable employees can use the Marketplace and the employer can be fined.
  2. Employers must offer at least a 30 day Special Enrollment Period for employees or qualifying employee family members losing coverage from another source. This means an employee must be given 30 days to enroll in an employer plan after losing non-employer minimum essential coverage for any reason other than non-payment.

A penalty is applied to companies that do not conform to the law.

You must have an individual mandate in order for the system to work. Prices will rise and enrollment will plummet without the mandate. Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts health reform law  contained a mandate for this very reason. Subsidies or some other financial provision should be provided for those who cannot afford health insurance.

What do think should be done with the ACA?

How to Detect a Credible Source

The past election cycle can be characterized as a cycle of misinformation and lies. From the National Enquirer’s claim that Ted Cruz’s father was involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy, to the claim that blacks killed 81% of white homicide victims . Misinformation and lies are the new order of the day.

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Perhaps you think no one takes the National Enquirer seriously. Remember, Donald Trump pointed to the National Enquirer as evidence for his claim that Cruz’s father was involved in the JFK assassination.

Probably the biggest whopper was that Hillary Clinton was running a child sex ring out of a pizza establishment. This conspiracy theory motivated Edgar Maddison Welch to open fire in the pizza shop in question. This story was so convincing to Michael Flynn Jr, the son of the incoming national security advisor Michael Flynn, that he tweeted skepticism of reports debunking the pizzagate story.

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So, how can we tell a credible news source? George Mason University has provided helpful guidelines to assess news sources.

The guidelines are:

1. Is there any evidence that the author of the Web information has some authority in the field about which she or he is providing information? What are the author’s qualifications, credentials and connections to the subject?
2. With what organization or institution is the author associated? Is there a link to the sponsoring organization, a contact number and/or address or e-mail contact? A link to an association does not necessarily mean that the organization approved the content.
3. Does the author have publications in peer reviewed (scholarly and professional) publications, on the Web or in hard copy? (If an author does not have peer reviewed articles published, this does not mean that she or he does not have credible information, only that there has been no professional “test” of the author’s authority on that subject.)
4. Are there clues that the author/s are biased? For example, is he/she selling or promoting a product? Is the author taking a personal stand on a social/political issue or is the author being objective ? Bias is not necessarily “bad,” but the connections should be clear.
5. Is the Web information current? If there are a number of out-of-date links that do not work or old news, what does this say about the credibility of the information?
6. Does the information have a complete list of works cited, which reference credible, authoritative sources? If the information is not backed up with sources, what is the author’s relationship to the subject to be able to give an “expert” opinion?
7. Can the subject you are researching be fully covered with WWW sources or should print sources provide balance? Much scholarly research is still only available in traditional print form. It is safe to assume that if you have limited background in a topic and have a limited amount of time to do your research, you may not be able to get the most representative material on the subject. So be wary of making unsupportable conclusions based on a narrow range of sources.
8. On what kind of Web site does the information appear? The site can give you clues about the credibility of the source.

Here are some types of Web sites:

• Personal Home Pages – maintained by individuals. They are often informal. Individuals can post their resumes, link to favorite sites, showcase their interests and ideas. Some personal Web sites also serve as professional sites. For example, many professors publish their syllabi, course material and, in some cases, their scholarship, on their personal Web pages. Entrepreneurs often advertise their services on “home” pages.
• Special interest sites – maintained by non-profit organizations or activists dealing with special issues, such as environmental concerns, legalization of marijuana, etc. They can be relatively mainstream or radical in interests and vary widely in credibility of information. Special interest sites are, by their nature, biased. When using such sources, your readers should be aware of the source’s special interest.
• Professional sites – maintained by institutions/organizations, sometimes by individuals. They can include research, reference sources, fact sheets. Many institutions provide such services to the public. The credibility of the institution or professional credential of the individual providing the facts gives clues as to the reliability of the information. Is the site just linking to sources? If so, the credibility of the information is connected to the originating sites.
• News and Journalistic sites (E-zines) – which include national, international news, online newspapers, magazines, and “homegrown” Web publications. Anyone can publish his or her own “news,” on the Web. What do you know about, or what can you find out about, the reputation of the periodical? Is it an electronic version of a credible print publication? As in print – just because information is published does not necessarily mean it is true. If a periodical article has an ISSN number (International Standard Serial Number), it will probably have more authority.
• Commercial sites – Although many legitimate businesses have Websites, some are not legitimate. Companies, with good and bad reputations, are in the business of making money and acquiring and keeping customers. They are naturally biased in favor of their own products, so watch out for inflated claims for performance and quality. Companies will not showcase their competitors’ products. If you are, for example, comparing products, get impartial reviews, not company information. Many entrepreneurs use “rented” Web space to create their own Web sites to sell their services or products – buyer beware! Can you track the reputation of the company?

Confirm Jeff Sessions?

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A troubling letter written by Coretta Scott King in 1986 just surfaced. The letter was submitted to then-Judiciary Chairman Strom Thurmond (R-TN) but was never entered into the congressional record. Copies of the letters were not publicly available until now. The purpose of the letter was to persuade senators to reject Jeff Sessions’ nomination to become a federal judge. Jeff Sessions did not become a federal judge, but a hearing is underway for his nomination for Attorney General.

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You can find a copy of the letter here.

Here are some of the most damaging parts of the letter:

“Civil rights leaders, including my husband and Albert Turner, have fought long and hard to achieve free and unfettered access to the ballot box. Mr. Sessions has used the awesome power of his office to chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens in the district he now seeks to serve as a federal judge. This simply cannot be allowed to happen.” (pg. 2)

“Mr. Sessions’ conduct as U.S Attorney, from his politically-motivated voting fraud prosecutions to his indifference toward criminal violations of civil rights laws, indicates that he lacks the temperament, fairness and judgment to be a federal judge.” (pgs. 2-3)

“The irony of Mr. Sessions’ nomination is that, if confirmed, he will be given life tenure for doing with a federal prosecution what the local sheriffs accomplished twenty years ago with clubs and cattle prods.” (pg.4)

“The actions taken by Mr Sessions in regard to the 1984 voting fraud prosecutions represent just one more technique used to intimidate clack voters and thus deny them this most precious franchise.” (pgs. 5-6)

“In these investigations, Mr. Sessions, as U.S. Attorney, exhibited eagerness to bring to trial and convict three leaders of the Perry County Civic League including Albert Turner despite evidence clearly demonstrating their innocence of any wrongdoing. Furthermore, in initiating the case, Mr. Sessions ignored allegations of similar behavior by whites, choosing instead to chill the exercise of the franchise by blacks by his misguided investigation. In fact, Mr. Sessions sought to punish older black civil activists, advisors and colleagues of my husband, who had been key figures in the civil rights movement in the 1960’s.” (pg. 6)

“The scope and character of the investigations conducted by Mr. Sessions also warrant grave concern. Witnesses were selectively chosen in accordance with the favorability of their testimony to the government’s case. Also, the prosecution illegally withheld from the defense critical statements made by witnesses. Witnesses who did not testify were pressured and intimated into submitting the “correct” testimony. Many elderly blacks were visited multiple times by the FBI who then hauled them over 180 miles by bus to a grand jury in Mobile when they could more easily have testified at a grand jury twenty miles away in Selma. These voters, and others, have announced they are now never going to vote again.” (pg. 7)

Should Jeff Sessions be confirmed as Attorney General in light of this letter?

The Possession and use of Nuclear Weapons (Part 7)

With this post we conclude our series on nuclear weapons. I hope vigorous debate ensues in the comment section.

David Krieger with the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, says there are 10 flaws with the Nuclear Deterrence Theory:

  1. It is only a theory.  It is not proven and cannot be proven.  A theory may posit a causal relationship, for example, if one party does something, certain results will follow.  In the case of nuclear deterrence theory, it is posited that if one party threatens to retaliate with nuclear weapons, the other side will not attack.  That an attack has not occurred, however, does not prove that it was prevented by nuclear deterrence.  That is, in logic, a false assumption of causality.  In logic, one cannot prove a negative, that is, that doing something causes something else not to happen.  That a nuclear attack has not happened may be a result of any number of other factors, or simply of exceptional good fortune.  To attribute the absence of nuclear war to nuclear deterrence is to register a false positive, which imbues nuclear deterrence with a false sense of efficacy.
  2. It requires a commitment to mass murder.  Nuclear deterrence leads to policy debates about how many threatened deaths with nuclear weapons are enough to deter an adversary?  Are one million deaths sufficient to deter adversary A?  Is it a different number for adversary B?  How many deaths are sufficient?  One million?  Ten million?  One hundred million?  More?  There will always be a tendency to err on the side of more deaths, and thus the creation of more elaborate nuclear killing systems.  Such calculations, in turn, drive arms races, requiring huge allocations of resources to weapons systems that must never be used.  Leaders must convince their own populations that the threat of mass murder and the expenditure of resources to support this threat make them secure and is preferable to other allocations of scientific and financial resources.  The result is not only a misallocation of resources, but also a diversion of effort away from cooperative solutions to global problems.
  3. It requires effective communications.  In effect, nuclear deterrence is a communications theory.  Side A must communicate its capability and willingness to use its nuclear arsenal in retaliation for an attack by adversary B, thereby preventing adversary B from attacking.  The threat to retaliate and commit mass murder must be believable to a potential attacker.  Communications take place verbally in speeches by leaders and parliamentary statements, as well as news reports and even by rumors.  Communications also take place non-verbally in the form of alliance formations and nuclear weapons and missile tests.  In relation to nuclear deterrence, virtually everything that each side does is a deliberate or inadvertent form of communication to a potential adversary.  There is much room for error and misunderstanding.
  4. It requires rational decision makers.  Nuclear deterrence will not be effective against a decision maker who is irrational.  For example, side A may threaten nuclear retaliation for an attack by adversary B, but the leader of side B may irrationally conclude that the leader of side A will not do what he says.  Or, the leader of side B may irrationally attack side A because he does not care if one million or ten million of his countrymen die as a result of side A’s nuclear retaliation.  I believe two very important questions to consider are these: Do all leaders of all states behave rationally at all times, particularly under conditions of extreme stress when tensions are very high?  Can we be assured that all leaders of all states will behave rationally at all times in the future?  Most people believe the answer to these questions is an unqualified No.
  5. It instills a false sense of confidence.   Nuclear deterrence is frequently confused with nuclear “defense,” leading to the conclusion that nuclear weapons provide some form of physical protection against attack.  This conclusion is simply wrong.  The weapons and the threat of their use provide no physical protection.  The only protection provided is psychological and once the weapons start flying it will become clear that psychological protection is not physical protection.  One can believe the weapons make him safer, but this is not the same as actually being safer.  Because nuclear deterrence theory provides a false sense of confidence, it could lead a possessor of the weapons to take risks that would be avoided without nuclear threats in place.  Such risks could be counterproductive and actually lead to nuclear war.
  6. It does not work against an accidental use.  Nuclear deterrence is useful, if at all, only against the possibility of an intentional, premeditated nuclear attack.  Its purpose is to make the leader who contemplates the intentional use of a nuclear weapon decide against doing so.  But nuclear deterrence cannot prevent an accidental use of a nuclear weapon, such as an accidental launch.  This point was made in the movie Dr. Strangelove, in which a US nuclear attack was accidentally set in motion against the Soviet Union.  In the movie, bomber crews passed their “failsafe” point in a training exercise and couldn’t be recalled.  The president of the United States had to get on the phone with his Soviet counterpart and try to explain that the attack on Moscow that had been set in motion was just an accident.  The Americans were helpless to stop the accident from occurring, and so were the Soviets.  Accidents happen!  There is no such thing as a “foolproof” system, and when nuclear weapons are involved it is extremely dangerous to think there is.
  7. It doesn’t work against terrorist organizations.  Nuclear deterrence is based upon the threat of retaliation.  Since it is not possible to retaliate against a foe that you cannot locate, the threat of retaliation is not credible under these circumstances.  Further, terrorists are often suicidal (e.g., “suicide bombers”), and are willing to die to inflict death and suffering on an adversary.  For these reasons, nuclear deterrence will be ineffective in preventing nuclear terrorism.  The only way to prevent nuclear terrorism is to prevent the weapons themselves from falling into the hands of terrorist organizations.  This will become increasingly difficult if nuclear weapons and the nuclear materials to build them proliferate to more and more countries.
  8. It encourages nuclear proliferation.  To the extent that the theory of nuclear deterrence is accepted as valid and its flaws overlooked or ignored, it will make nuclear weapons seem to be valuable instruments for the protection of a country.  Thus, the uncritical acceptance of nuclear deterrence theory provides an incentive for nuclear proliferation.  If it is believed that nuclear weapons can keep a country safe, there will be commensurate pressure to develop such weapons.
  9. It is not believable.  In the final analysis, it is likely that even the policy makers who promote nuclear deterrence do not truly believe in it.  If policy makers did truly believe that nuclear deterrence works as they claim, they would not need to develop missile defenses.  The United States alone has spent over $100 billion on developing missile defenses over the past three decades, and is continuing to spend some $10 billion annually on missile defense systems.  Such attempts at physical protection against nuclear attacks are unlikely to ever be fully successful, but they demonstrate the underlying understanding of policy makers that nuclear deterrence alone is insufficient to provide protection to a country.  If policy makers understand that nuclear deterrence is far from foolproof, then who is being fooled by nuclear deterrence theory?  In all likelihood, the only people being fooled by the promised effectiveness of nuclear deterrence theory are the ordinary people who place their faith in their leaders, the same people who are the targets of nuclear weapons and will suffer the consequences should nuclear deterrence fail.  Their political and military leaders have made them the “fools” in what is far from a “foolproof” system.
  10. Its failure would be catastrophic.  Nuclear deterrence theory requires the development and deployment of nuclear weapons for the threat of retaliation.  These weapons can, of course, be used for initiating attacks as well as for seeking to prevent attacks by means of threatened retaliation.  Should deterrence theory fail, such failure could result in consequences beyond our greatest fears.  For example, scientists have found in simulations of the use of 100 Hiroshima-size nuclear weapons in an exchange between India and Pakistan, the deaths could reach one billion individuals due to blast, fire, radiation, climate change, crop failures and resulting starvation.  A larger nuclear war between the US and Russia could destroy civilization as we know it.

The Possession and use of Nuclear Weapons (My Position) (Part 6)

I would like to give my view on nuclear weapons. I think we should get rid of our nuclear arsenal. It seems to me that we are justified in possessing nuclear weapons only if we are willing to use nuclear weapons. Remember, you have to be willing to use nuclear weapons in order for the deterrence measure to work. I don’t think we are justified in using nuclear weapons; therefore we should not have nuclear weapons.

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My reasons for holding this position are contained in the previous posts, but they are also motivated by Just War Theory. Just War Theory attempts to give conditions under which a country is justified in using arms and how they should act while they are engaged in the use of arms.

Just War Theory has two major components:

Jus ad bellum (Latin for “right to war”): the conditions under which the use of arms is justified.
Jus in bello (Latin for “the law in waging war”): how to use arms in an ethical manner.

Jus ad bellum includes at least six guiding principles:

1. Just Cause: The end sought by the use of arms must be worth the destruction, devastation and loss of life inflicted by use of arms. A just cause could be national defense or humanitarian intervention.
2. Legitimate Authority: The people engaged in the use of arms must have the appropriate authority to do so.
3. Right Intention: State actors must intend to achieve the just cause and not some other unjustified goal.
4. Reasonable Prospects of Success: The use of arms must have a reasonable likelihood of achieving its just aims.
5. Proportionality: Use of arms cannot result in evils and harms that are graver than the evil to be eliminated.
6. Last Resort (Necessary Component): This means there is no other less harmful way to achieve the just cause than use of arms.

Jus in Bello includes at least 3 guiding principles:

1. Discrimination: Combatants are only allowed to use arms against enemy combatants, and not against non-combatants who are caught in a situation they did not create.
2. Proportionality: The harms inflicted by use of force must be proportionate to the military objective achieved.
3. Necessity: Use of arms must be kept at the most minimal level possible.

My reasons against possessing and using nuclear weapons are beautifully summed up by a presentation given by Catholic Bishop Oscar Cantú to the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (UCCB):

1. Discrimination: For use of force to be just, it must discriminate between combatants and noncombatants. One cannot intend to slaughter innocent civilians. The moral problem with nuclear weapons is that the devastation they wreak cannot discriminate between combatants and noncombatants.

2. Proportionality: The death and destruction caused by the use of force cannot be out of proportion to the goal of protecting human life and human rights. The raw destructive capacity and lingering radiation of nuclear weapons make their use morally unthinkable.

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3. Probability of success: The use of force must have serious prospects of success for it to be justified. What would success look like in a nuclear war? In 2006, Pope Benedict reminded us that in a nuclear war there would be no “victors, only victims” (World Day of Peace Message, #13).

What do you think?

A Digression: The Russian Hacking Situation


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This blog post is a follow-up to a post made on this blog on December 13, 2016.

Top Intelligence agencies made available a declassified assessment of Russian hacking yesterday. This is the conclusion of a probe requested by President Obama. Donald Trump called the probe a “witch hunt.” The report summarizes the conclusions of the FBI, CIA, and NSA.

The report contains a number of interesting findings that debunk some of Donald Trump’s claims. Donald Trump said US intelligence agencies were unable to determine who was responsible for the hack. The report, however, places the blame squarely on the Russian government. The report also said Russia tried to influence the election in order to help Trump win the presidency. Trump previously rejected similar assessments given by all 17 intelligence agencies that said Russia stole, and shared emails from Democratic organizations. We know now that his rejection was unfounded. Trump also said he was going to provide countervailing evidence to the intelligence community’s findings on Tuesday or Wednesday of this week, but we have received nothing from him so far. Here are the reports key judgments:

Key Judgments

Russian efforts to influence the 2016 US presidential election represent the most recent expression of Moscow’s longstanding desire to undermine the US-led liberal democratic order, but these activities demonstrated a significant escalation in directness, level of activity, and scope of effort compared to previous operations.

We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election. Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump. We have high confidence in these judgments.

We also assess Putin and the Russian Government aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him. All three agencies agree with this judgment. CIA and FBI have high confidence in this judgment; NSA has moderate confidence.

 Moscow’s approach evolved over the course of the campaign based on Russia’s understanding of the electoral prospects of the two main candidates. When it appeared to Moscow that Secretary Clinton was likely to win the election, the Russian influence campaign began to focus more on undermining her future presidency.

 Further information has come to light since Election Day that, when combined with Russian behavior since early November 2016, increases our confidence in our assessments of Russian motivations and goals.

Moscow’s influence campaign followed a Russian messaging strategy that blends covert intelligence operations—such as cyber activity—with overt efforts by Russian Government agencies, state-funded media, third-party intermediaries, and paid social media users or “trolls.” Russia, like its Soviet predecessor, has a history of conducting covert influence campaigns focused on US presidential elections that have used intelligence officers and agents and press placements to disparage candidates perceived as hostile to the Kremlin.

 Russia’s intelligence services conducted cyber operations against targets associated with the 2016 US presidential election, including targets associated with both major US political parties.

 We assess with high confidence that Russian military intelligence (General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate or GRU) used the Guccifer 2.0 persona and to release US victim data.

The Possession and use of Nuclear Weapons (Part 5)

Now we turn to arguments against having nuclear weapons.

Image result for nuclear disarmament

Those who want to reach full nuclear disarmament have a potent repertoire of arguments as well. Peter Weiss provides powerful reasons for nuclear disarmament in his paper, Six Reasons why Nuclear Weapons are more Dangerous than ever. Here are his six reasons:

1. Number one, nuclear weapons have become a justification for preemptive war. In my view, Congress would never have given the President the authority to invade Iraq if Congress had not believed at the time that they were doing it because of Saddam’s nuclear weapons program. And that kind of thinking is now likely to repeat itself. Who knows what we’re going to do about Iran or North Korea or the next country that says to the world “if the eight countries that have them now think they need nukes for their security, why not we?”
2. Number two, there is the effect that nuclear weapons have on civil rights and civil liberties. The specter of the mushroom cloud over Manhattan, as alluded to by Condoleezza Rice, has become the justification for every derogation from long accepted “absolute” norms, like the prohibition of torture or of warrantless wiretapping.
3. Number three, nuclear weapons have been redefined as virtually conventional weapons. For most of the years since the NPT came into effect, nuclear weapons have been regarded as the very ultimate weapon to be used only in the most extraordinary circumstances. If you read the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review Report, you will see that nuclear weapons are now part of a triad of deterrent weapons to be used in any number of situations. And not only the United States is taking that position but it is spreading now to other countries. President Chirac made a remarkable statement …in which he said that France would not necessarily refrain from using nuclear weapons in reply to terrorist attacks. So all options are now on the table, at the Elysée, as well as at the White House.
4. The fourth point is that nuclear weapons in the hands of terrorists did not exist during the Cold War. This is a very real problem. Will terrorists use nuclear weapons? Who knows? Terrorists do all kinds of crazy things that they don’t consider crazy.
5. Number five, which is related to number four, is the unwillingness of the nuclear weapon states to honor their commitments under Article VI and the “unequivocal undertaking” that they gave in the 2000 NPT Review Conference to abolish their nuclear arsenals, an undertaking which, despite its unequivocal nature, they refused to reaffirm at last year’s conference.
6. Finally, my sixth point is the energy crisis…. We have to reduce our dependence on oil. But ethanol alone is not going to do it. As a result, there is going to be, indeed there is already, a strong push to revive nuclear power and as long as that happens the danger of enriched uranium being diverted to weapons production will not only remain, but it will grow.

Bibliography: Weiss, Peter. “Six Reasons Why Nuclear Weapons Are More Dangerous Than Ever.” American University International Law Review 22, no. 3 (2007): 393–400. Accessed December 28, 2016.