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The world has now learned that Iran has been secretly building a second uranium enrichment facility.  There has long been suspicion that Iran’s original uranium enrichment facility could be used for making weapons grade uranium.  Iran has strongly denied that this is the case, stating that their only goal was to produce enriched uranium for nuclear power plants – a capability that is allowed by United Nations regulations.  The problem with the second facility is that it has been kept secret – and it has been under construction for years. One has to ask: if this facility is only for peaceful purposes, why has its existence been kept secret?

Recently, Iran had national elections with the result that President Ahmadinejad was reelected. As the entire world is aware, this result was strongly contested by many Iranians and protests were put down with lethal force. Many people do not believe that Ahmadinejad won.

A week ago, President Ahmadinejad made an address in Iran and stated that the Holocaust is “a lie and a mythical claim”.  Yesterday, he told NPR that it was a “historical event”.  Like the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland, it seems that this man’s words mean exactly what he wants them to mean.  However, for those of us less gifted, we have to deal with the commonly accepted meanings of words, and that is where we have a problem with President Ahmadinejad.  To put it kindly, we don’t seem to speak the same language.  When he says “right”, does he mean “left” or “right”?  When he says “yes”, does it mean “yes” or “no”?

Now we are dealing with a serious issue.  Is the new nuclear enrichment site in Iran intended to produce uranium for the production of electricity or for the production of a nuclear bomb?  President Obama stated that the design of the facility is such that it is not suited for producing uranium for power plants. It is instead suited for producing uranium for nuclear bombs.  Nevertheless, President Ahmadinejad insists that President Obama, along with the leaders of other European countries, are incorrect and that he is being wrongly accused of building weapons of mass destruction.

It seems only yesterday that George Bush invaded Iraq, claiming that Saddam Hussein was building weapons of mass destruction.  If George was president now, what would he do? (Hint: George knew about the existence of this secret Iranian facility for a long time.  He even told Barack Obama about it shortly before Barack became president.) OK.  So now we know: George would do, and did do, nothing.  He invaded Iraq and found absolutely no trace of nuclear weapons, but he didn’t invade Iran which, for all intents and purposes, sure looks like it is developing a nuclear weapon.  The inaction of George Bush in this deadly serious matter is as hard to understand as are his foolish actions in Iraq.  However, there is one interesting thing we can deduce: it appears that George Bush and President Ahmadinejad speak the same language – a language no one else in the world understands.

Now we, and the world, now face two problems with Iran – a short term problem and a long term problem. The short term problem is: what do we do now?  Do we let Iran complete construction of a facility designed to produce nuclear bombs? Do we just blow it up? Do we make a deal, and if so, do we really trust Ahmadinejad to keep his word – whatever that means?  Assuming we get past this problem in the near term, how do we prevent this same scenario from happening again and again, not only in Iran, but is so many other countries?

Here’s a long term solution: Create a global uranium enrichment facility in a neutral country, like Switzerland.  All countries have to agree that in the future all enriched uranium for power production purposes will only be made in this single facility.  This facility will belong to the United Nations.  All existing enrichment facilities that produce uranium for  power plants will be shut down.  So what about facilities for building weapons grade uranium? No new facilities will be allowed anywhere in the world, including in those countries that already have such facilities.  It then remains for those countries (a fairly small club) that have weapons grade enrichment capability to negotiate an end to these capabilities.

It may not be a perfect solution, but at least we would know that there won’t be any new players in the nuclear weapons game, especially ones who cannot be trusted and whose words mean nothing at all.

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Defending a country against an attack by ballistic missiles is very difficult. That was clearly demonstrated during the first Gulf War when Saddam Hussein started firing ballistic missiles at Israel.  Remember that? The U.S. quickly moved in Patriot antimissile systems and they did a fine job of hitting and destroying the missiles that were in ballistic flight towards Israel.  However, the failed to stop the warheads. The warheads, which were also in ballistic flight, just kept coming and they hit their targets.  Very few, if any, warheads were intercepted.

Remember when Ronald Reagan began the “Star Wars” missile defense program?  The idea was to shoot interceptors at the (presumably Soviet) warheads while they were out in space, in ballistic flight.  It was termed “hitting a bullet with a bullet”.  It’s not an easy thing to do. The U.S. has spent a lot of time and effort to try to develop such a capability, and it appears that we now have some capability with the Navy’s new system.  This system, however, is not the one that President Bush wanted to position in Eastern Europe on the border with Russia – much to the consternation of Vladimir Putin.

The question one might ask is why was Putin so upset?  Wasn’t it a good idea to protect the U.S. from long range Iranian nuclear missiles? Maybe. The problem is that Iran has neither nuclear weapons nor long range missiles.  On the other hand, Russia does.  So what? Well, until now the nuclear peace has been preserved by a sort of understanding between the super powers. It’s called Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD).  It has worked because each side knew that if it attacked the other, a return attack would be on the way in moments.  Each side would be incinerated.  Thus was the peace kept.

The problem with the Bush plan was that placing missile interceptors so close to Russia might also allow the U.S. to shoot down Russian missiles when they are launched. So what? Isn’t that good? No.  Not if we are still playing by the rules of MAD, because that might allow the U.S. to launch a first strike against Russia and then intercept the missiles that the Russians launch in reply. This would destroy the balance of power.  Clearly, this made Mr. Putin very unhappy, while President Bush pretended not to understand the issue.  This effort to place a very sophisticated missile tracking radar and interceptor missiles on the Russian border, while Iran had absolutely no capability to launch a nuclear attack against the U.S. was a very dangerous and destabilizing policy.  Bush was a madman to pursue it.  What was President Bush thinking?

The latest move by President Obama to cancel President Bush’s plans and to position U.S. Navy interceptors near Iran to protect Israel makes much more sense. These are not a threat to Russia, but they do provide credible protection for Israel.  It will undoubtedly make Iran unhappy; however, if Iran truly means no harm to Israel then it won’t affect them.  On the other hand, if it defeats their plans for a massive attack on Israel, so much the better. The fact that these missiles can also provide a shield for other Middle Eastern countries is also a great, stabilizing benefit.

Besides the benefits that will accrue to peace loving countries in the Middle East, President Obama’s move will also pave the way for the restoration of more friendly ties with Russia, a move that will certainly be welcomed by the sane citizens of America.  Until President Bush made the awful mistake of attempting to place short range interceptors on Russia’s border, the world was enjoying a relative period of peace and detante – not good news for the defense contractors and their lobbyists, and the U.S. lawmakers who get rich on the “contributions” from the lobbyists, but good news for everyone else in the world.

President Obama made a very sensible decision based upon the scientific facts and capabilities of all the countries involved.  He also made a courageous move towards creating a friendly relationship with Russia.  Remember when we were all afraid of “Red China” and the possibility of nuclear war with that country?  It wasn’t all that long ago.   Now China is a major trading partner of the U.S.  Our economy probably couldn’t function without our interaction with China.  Perhaps the same thing may happen some day with Russia too. At least this is a start.

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In the weeks and months leading up to the Iraq War President Bush enunciated a new U.S. defense policy that endorsed the concept of preemptive strikes against potential enemies. He justified this new approach by saying that the experience of the 9/11 terrorist attacks had shown that the U.S. could not afford to stand by and wait to be attacked before taking any action against a possible aggressor. From the ashes of the world trade center was born a new strategy of strike on suspicion of possible attack against the U.S.

Following the massive bombing campaign against Afghanistan and the defeat of the Taliban, the Bush administration turned its attention to Iraq and soon deemed that it was a potential threat because it secretly harbored weapons of mass destruction. These weapons were alleged to be nuclear, biological, or chemical. We probably all remember Secretary of State Colin Powell showing surveillance photos of Iraqi sites to the United Nations. They contained purported evidence of weapons of mass destruction. It was very reminiscent of U-2 photos taken over Cuba during the Kennedy years. The photos clearly showed the presence of Soviet Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles in Cuba. The difference between these photos and Bush’s photos was that in Kennedy’s case the analysis was correct and in Bush’s case the analysis was, to say the very least, completely incorrect.

Nevertheless, based upon this flimsy evidence and in the face of protests from the UN’s own weapons inspector who said that there was no evidence of these weapons in Iraq, President Bush chose to attack Iraq using as justification his newly created policy of preemptive strike. History has shown, unequivocally, that President Bush was completely wrong, and that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction. The effect of this reckless policy of attack based upon suspicion must have surely been to make many countries concerned and even afraid of this seemingly out of control President.

A couple of years ago President Bush determined that Iran was becoming a threat to the world through the development of a nuclear weapons capability. Despite Iran’s protests that it was only developing the capability to produce electricity through nuclear power, President Bush pressed Iran strongly to cease all nuclear related research. When Iran persisted President Bush decided to establish a very sophisticated missile tracking radar in Eastern Europe. He has recently signed an agreement with the Polish government to station interceptor missiles on Polish soil that would be guided by this very advanced radar. The radar will probably be located in the Czech Republic. President Bush has said that positioning this system in Eastern Europe is critical to the defense of Europe and the U.S. in the event that Iran launches a nuclear attack. It should come as no surprise that the Russian government is very, very uneasy about this development, especially when you look at President Bush’s track record of preemptive strike.

Here are some things to consider: there is no evidence that Iran possesses any intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). Its longest-range missile seems to have a maximum operating range of about 1,250 miles, not nearly enough to reach the U.S., although perhaps able to reach parts of Europe. There is, however, no indication that the Europeans are worried about this since Iran’s most likely target is really Israel. Russia, on the other hand, does have ICBMs, lots and lots of them. For many years they have been aimed at the U.S., just as many of our ICBMs are aimed at them. It’s all part of a stalemate called Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD), i.e. neither side can win a nuclear without it being a Pyrrhic victory. This condition of detente has kept the peace in the world for fifty years.

President Bush’s plan to introduce advanced interceptor missiles and a very sophisticated missile tracking radar on Russia’s doorstep will change the MAD equation dramatically because it could negate the possibility of Russia being able to respond to a U.S. nuclear attack. It eliminates Mutual Assured Destruction and that destroys the détente that has prevented global thermonuclear war these past fifty years. President Bush wants to change the equation using the excuse that Iran might be building a nuclear weapon and maybe someday they will have an ICBM that will reach the U.S. Given President Bush’s cowboy tendency to fire from the hip, wouldn’t you be a little nervous if you were in Vladimir Putin’s shoes?

Here’s something else to wonder about: given the President’s already clearly stated policy of attack upon suspicion, which worked so effectively in Iraq, why doesn’t he just bomb the Iranian nuclear facility and be done with the issue? That would be nothing compared to the massive destruction we rained down upon Iraq. It could all be done with a single B-2 stealth bomber if he is really that worried about it. And besides, it’s all entirely justified under the Bush Doctrine of attack upon suspicion. So what’s going on here? Why the convoluted step of basing our most advanced radar and missile interceptors right next to Russia and then telling them not to worry because the missiles are really meant to save the world from Iran in about ten years or so.

Does this scare anyone besides the Russians? It should, because this out of control President is needlessly moving us closer to nuclear confrontation with Russia than we have ever been since the Cuban Missile Crisis. Maybe someone should tell our President the meaning of the word Pyrrhic.

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