U.S. IS Prepping to Airstrike Iran

Is the U.S. Prepping to Airstrike Iran?

Curt Mills

There are parallels with 1998 and Iraq.

Daniel McCarthy correctly observes in The National Interest that this presidency bears more resemblance to Bill Clinton’s than Richard Nixon’s: a principal short on probity in affairs sexual and personal financial, but one who is, so far, overseeing a rip roaring economy and largely conventional foreign policy.

Amidst convulsions in the chattering classes about Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort and ouster from office, another parallel lurks: much like the Clinton administration, this White House quietly assesses an unsavory Middle Eastern government as its preeminent challenge .

This time it’s Iran, not Iraq, of course. But as 2018 closes, the U.S. is nearing the twenty-year anniversary of an oft-forgotten event in history: Bill Clinton’s airstrikes on Saddam Hussein’s regime in December 1998. The 42nd president explained the strikes , which killed over one thousand of Saddam’s Republican Guard, from the Oval Office: their mission was “to attack Iraq’s nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs” but also “its military capacity to threaten its neighbors.” Their purpose was “to protect the national interest of the United States, and indeed the interests of people throughout the Middle East and around the world.”

As I’ve previously pointed out, the Trump administration officially maintains its policy is to seek change in the Iranian regime’s behavior, not necessarily change in the regime itself. But top hawks flying in the president’s orbit disagree. Ali Safavi of the National Council for Resistance of Iran (NCRI), associated with the MEK, has told me: “We welcome the call for the Iranian regime’s change of behavior at home and abroad as that would lead to its definite demise.”

But if protests combined with a torrent of financial pressure don’t collapse the clerical government in Tehran, or if President Hassan Rouhani’s government (infuriated and humiliated at home by U.S. secession from the Iran deal) flails out militarily, might the U.S. entertain military action? As I’ve written before, those seeking change in Iran near-universally see the parallel here as 1989 and the collapse of the Soviet Union, not 2003 and the military decapitation of the government in Baghdad.

But a hybrid option exists — select airstrikes on the 1998 model — to further squeeze the Iranians. Regime opponents like NCRI and MEK insist this will not be necessary if Tehran is isolated enough. But precision military strikes have been, quite subtly, floated before by those in and around the Trump administration as a failsafe.

Prior to his return to power this spring, John Bolton, now national security advisor, wrote last summer in National Review what he thought the world should look like after U.S. nullification of the JCPOA: “With Israel and selected others, we will discuss military options.” He urged delivery of F-35s to Jerusalem. Walter Russell Mead at The Wall Street Journal , who has been cited as Steve Bannon’s favorite columnist and is perhaps the most prominent foreign policy thinker in the country at least open to this administration, has written if the Iranians respond to the JCPOA abdication “by restarting their nuclear program” that “Israeli-American airstrikes could both stop the process and inflict a humiliating blow to the regime’s prestige.”

So is this actually in the cards? On this administration, two prime theories of the case abound.

In one reading, this is a Republican administration going through the motions of being reflexively hawkish. Adherents to this interpretation notes that all of the major presidential candidates for the nomination, even restrainer Rand Paul, opposed President Obama’s nuclear deal. This is the fear of hardliners like Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy (CSP), friendly with the administration. He has called for the diminishment of Brian Hook, newly named the State Department’s pointman on Iran’s malign activity.

“Iran’s foreign minister marked the 65th anniversary of an American-backed coup that toppled a hostile and oppressive government in Tehran by vowing that the United States’ new ‘Iran Action Group’ won’t have the same effect. He’s likely right,” Gaffney said in an email message to subscribers last week. “If President Trump wants to help the Iranian people liberate themselves from a Sharia kleptocracy that oppresses them and threatens us and wants the Action Group to do that, putting Brian Hook in charge ensures it won’t happen. Hook is deeply hostile to Trump and has, to date, used his top job at State to save the Obamabomb deal, and prop up Iran’s regime.” This is quite a statement for foreign policy restrainers, a Mitt Romney alum generally considered a dependable hawk. But for Gaffney and other hardliners, not so.

“The potential for an unprovoked attack on Iran exists, but I think it’s less than 10 percent,” a former senior U.S. military officer friendly with the administration and leading Republicans told me Thursday. Bolton this week said the U.S. goal was to drive Iranian oil exports down to zero, and announced that U.S. rejected a Tehran-proposed compromise plan to swap sanctions relief for a drawback in Syria. But Bolton, in Israel, also reported that U.S. sanctions on the country had already been more effective than expected, seeming to pour cold water on imminent, further action.

A Closer Look At the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

img_2674LOOK AT NEW YORK CITY’S EARTHQUAKE RISKS

By Spectrum News NY1 | April 2, 2018 @4:32 PM

Not every New Yorker felt when the ground shook on August 23, 2011.

When a magnitude 5.8 earthquake cracked the soil near Mineral, Virginia that day, the energy traveled through the Northeast.

Some New Yorkers watched their homes tremor, while others felt nothing.

Researchers say New York City is due for a significant earthquake originating near the five boroughs, based on previous smaller earthquakes in and around the city. While New York is at moderate risk for earthquakes, its high population and infrastructure could lead to significant damage when a magnitude 5 quake or stronger hits the area.

Unbeknownst to many, there are numerous fault lines in the city, but a few stand out for their size and prominence: the 125th Street Fault, the Dyckman Street Fault, the Mosholu Parkway Fault, and the East River Fault.

The 125th Street Fault is the largest, running along the street, extending from New Jersey to the East River. Part of it runs to the northern tip of Central Park, while a portion extends into Roosevelt Island.

The Dyckman Street Fault is located in Inwood, crossing the Harlem River and into Morris Heights, while the Mosholu Parkway Fault is north of the Dyckman Street and 125th Street Faults.

The East River Fault looks a bit like an obtuse angle, with its top portion running parallel, to the west of Central Park, before taking a horizontal turn near 32nd St. and extending into the East River and stopping short of Brooklyn.

Just outside of the city is the Dobbs Ferry Fault, located in suburban Westchester; and the Ramapo Fault, running from eastern Pennsylvania to the mid-Hudson Valley, passing within a few miles northwest of the Indian Point Nuclear Plant, less than 40 miles north of the city and astride the intersection of two active seismic zones.

The locations of faults and the prevalence of earthquakes is generally not a concern for most New Yorkers. One reason might be that perceptions of weaker earthquakes vary widely.

On Nov. 30, a magnitude 4.1 earthquake, centered near Dover, Delaware, could be felt in nearby states. Less than 200 miles away in New York City, some people reported on social media that they felt their houses and apartments shaking. At the same time, some New Yorkers, again, did not feel anything:

Won-Young Kim is a senior research scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, which monitors and records data on earthquakes that occur in the northeast. Kim says it’s not clear who feels smaller earthquakes, as evident by a magnitude 0.8 quake in the city in December of 2004.

“Hundreds of people called local police, and police called us. Our system was unable to detect that tiny earthquake automatically,” Kim said. “We looked at it, and, indeed, there was a small signal.”

Kim says some parts of the city will feel magnitude 1 or 2 earthquakes even if the seismic activity does not result in any damage.

You have to go back to before the 20th Century, however, to find the last significant earthquake that hit the city. According to Lamont-Doherty researchers, magnitude 5.2 earthquakes occurred in 1737 and 1884. In newspaper accounts, New Yorkers described chimneys falling down and feeling the ground shake underneath them.

“1737 — that was located close to Manhattan,” Kim said. “It was very close to New York City.”

According to Kim, the 1884 quake was felt in areas in or close to the city, such as the Rockaways and Sandy Hook, New Jersey. But it was felt even as far away as Virginia and Maine.

From 1677 to 2007, there were 383 known earthquakes in a 15,000-square-mile area around New York City, researchers at Lamont-Doherty said in a 2008 study.

A 4.9 located in North Central New Jersey was felt in the city in 1783; a 4 hit Ardsley in 1985; and in 2001, magnitude 2.4 and 2.6 quakes were detected in Manhattan itself for the first time.

But the 1737 and 1884 quakes remain the only known ones of at least magnitude 5 to hit the city.

Smaller earthquakes are not to be ignored. Lamont-Doherty researchers say frequent small quakes occur in predictable ratios to larger ones and thus can be used — along with the fault lengths, detected tremors and calculations of how stress builds in the crust — to create a rough time scale.

The takeaway? New York City is due for a significant earthquake.

Researchers say New York City is susceptible to at least a magnitude 5 earthquake once every 100 years, a 6 about every 670 years, and 7 about every 3,400 years.

It’s been 134 years since New York was last hit by at least a magnitude 5. When it happens next, researchers say it won’t be much like 1884.

The city’s earthquake hazard is moderate, according to the New York City Area Consortium for Earthquake Loss Mitigation (NYCEM), but experts agree that, due to its higher population and infrastructure, the damage would be significant.

Before 1995, earthquake risks were not taken into consideration for the city’s building code. Thus, Lamont-Doherty says many older buildings, such as unenforced three- to six-story buildings, could suffer major damage or crumble.

The damage an earthquake causes is also dependent on what’s in the ground. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, bedrock is more resistant to earthquakes than sediment.

The upper third of Manhattan has harder soil that is more resistant to shaking. Parts of Midtown are more susceptible, while Downtown Manhattan’s soil is even softer, according to the NYCEM.

Exceptions to Upper Manhattan’s strength? Portions of Harlem and Inwood — both areas consist of a large amount of soft soil. Central Park has the strongest soil in Manhattan, outside of a small segment of Inwood..

Not all boroughs are created equal. While the Bronx is also made of solid bedrock, the ground in Queens and Brooklyn is softer.

“If you go to Queens and Brooklyn, you have sediment, so there would be more shaking relative to Manhattan,” Kim said. “So, it’s not easy to say the damage would be the same.”

Analysis pins the damage from a magnitude 5 earthquake hitting New York City in the billions, according to Lamont-Doherty.

New York City is not a hotbed for seismic activity; it is not close to a tectonic plate, and it is not clear if one of the faults would be the source of a strong quake. But the predicted damage to the city has concerned many experts.

Until that day, earthquakes are isolated events for New Yorkers. Some have felt the ground move, while others have only felt shaking when subway cars travel underground.

But researchers agree: One day, the ground will wake up in the city that never sleeps, and all New Yorkers will understand what Mineral, Virginia felt when their homes rattled with the earth.

Indian Point is NOT radiologically ready for the Sixth Seal

image-546With Indian Point, are you radiologically ready?

By Thomas Slater Emergency Preparedness Coordinator

August 23rd, 2018 | News, News and Features

Just as there are plans in place for dealing with natural emergencies such as tropical and winter storms, readiness plans are developed for man-made emergencies, which includes radiological hazards.

Nuclear power plants operate in most states in the country and produce about 20 percent of the nation’s power.

Nearly three million people live within the 10-mile Emergency Planning Zone of an operating nuclear power plant, including West Point, which is situated between 7-to-9 miles from the Indian Point Energy Center (IPEC) in Buchanan of Westchester County.

Although the construction and operation of nuclear power plants are closely monitored and regulated by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, incidents at these plants are possible—and planned for.

If an accident at IPEC were to result in the potential or actual release of radiation, warning sirens in the area would be activated. Commercial and West Point media sources would broadcast Emergency Alert System  messages to advise you on protective measures.

Depending upon the scope and scale of the emergency, protective actions may include “shelter-in-place” or “evacuation” advisories. As radioactive materials rapidly decay and dissipate with distance, the most likely scenario for West Point personnel would be to take shelter rather than trying to evacuate.

If you are instructed to shelter-in-place, the following steps will keep you and your family safe during the emergency.

• Shelter. Go inside your home or the nearest building; choose an inside room with as few windows or doors as possible.

• Shut. Shut and lock all windows and doors to create a better seal; turn off heating or cooling ventilation systems. If at home, make sure the fireplace damper and all ventilation fans are closed.

• Listen. Local officials are your best source of information. If in an office, monitor your computer, television and phones; if at home, listen to your radio or television until you are told it is safe to leave the shelter or to evacuate.

For more details, consult the Orange County Indian Point Emergency Guide, available at https://www.orangecountygov.com/DocumentCenter/View/2368/Indian-Point-Orange-Emergency-Guide-PDF, or call the West Point Emergency Manager at 845-938-7092.

Readiness, through education and preparation, is the best defense. Are you radiological ready?

Iran Hegemony Against Iraq and the Antichrist

Supporters of Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr carry his image as they celebrate in Tahrir Square, Baghdad, Iraq, May 14, 2018. Hadi Mizban,AP

Analysis Seeking to Bypass U.S. Sanctions, Iran Tightens Its Grip on Iraqi Politics

Meanwhile, Washington’s only interest is for the next Iraqi government to follow its sanctions policies – whatever the political price

Zvi Bar’el

The important news on the formation of a political bloc to lead Iraq for the next four years was supposed to come out from the Babylon Hotel in Baghdad’s bustling center this week. Twice over the past decade, the hotel fell victim to car-bomb attacks, but this didn’t stop the place from becoming one of the country’s most attractive and expensive tourist destinations.

A night goes for $220, including breakfast and access to both swimming pools. The hotel is near Baghdad’s main shopping areas, and no less important, it’s near one of Iraq’s most famous ice-cream stands. Representatives of the parties that won the May 12 parliamentary elections preferred to meet at a hotel with an appropriate “atmosphere” instead of hiding in the protected Green Zone where most of the ministries are located in former palaces left by Saddam Hussein.

The pleasant atmosphere and good food may be an effective condition for political negotiations, but they’re not enough – as the representatives of the political blocs learned. Three months after the elections, and similar to Lebanon, the process of forming a government is taking its time threading the political minefield in this country of tribes and minorities.

After an exhausting series of discussions, it seemed this time the four main blocs would build a coalition based on about 200 of the 329 legislators, a coalition that could then agree on a cabinet and principles. But the meeting blew up, the decisions were postponed and the next session is expected to be held only in mid-September – if everything goes well.

Forming a government in Iraq is a work of careful and complex deliberation; politicians must take into account the Shi’ite majority and minorities including the Sunnis, Kurds, Turkmens and Christians. But the ethnic and religious blocs aren’t all made up of the same material and internally aren’t necessarily harmonious either. The Shi’ites are divided into four rival sub-blocs, each headed by a powerful politician. Each also has its own militia in the guise of security forces, whose budgets come from the government.

The disagreements between the Shi’ite parties fall along two parallel axes. Some, such as the Victory Alliance headed by former Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, oppose Iranian influence and have even declared that an Iraq they headed would implement the new U.S. sanctions against Iran.

The same goes for the isolationist leader Muqtada al-Sadr, whose party won 54 seats. He feels that Iraq must keep itself equidistant from both Iran and the United States. In comparison, Ammar al-Hakim’s National Wisdom Movement, which fiercely opposes the sanctions on Iran, says Iraq must aid Iran even at the expense of its relations with the U.S. administration.

Sunnis and Kurds

The Sunnis, who will have about 35 seats in the new parliament, became a persecuted and oppressed minority after the fall of Saddam, so much so that some even joined the Islamic State. They did this not because they were so religious or radical, but mostly to take revenge against the Shi’ite regime that excluded them form budgets and political power, and because the Iraqi army treated them as if they were being occupied in their own country.

Quds Force chief Qassem Soleimani, center, at a ceremony in Tehran, June 30, 2018. AP

But the Sunnis too are divided, based in part on their tribal and regional affiliations. Some even cooperate with Iran even though it’s a Shi’ite country.

The Kurds, who will have some 40 seats in parliament, also have a long history of internecine problems. On one side of this rivalry is the western part of the Kurdish region, where Masoud Barzani, the head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the president of the entire Kurdistan region since 2005, ruled until last year. In the eastern part, Jalal Talabani, who died last year, and his Patriotic Union of Kurdistan were in control. The Change List party, in turn, has become a major force that competes with the two large Kurdish parties.

But beyond the agreement needed to divide up the government portfolios and budgets, Iraq has a regional influence in competition with Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and the United States. Each has opposing interests and, as in Lebanon and Syria, the government’s makeup has great importance for the each of these regional actors.

After the 2003 Iraq War, Saudi Arabia treated Iraq as a hostile nation, first because of the 1990 occupation of Kuwait by Saddam and later because of the Shi’ite-led government and its cooperation with Iran. But the Saudis have changed their attitude and two years ago reopened their embassy in Baghdad. Recently the border crossing between the two countries was reopened too, in an attempt to divert Iraqi trade with Iran to Saudi Arabia. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman hopes to see Abadi, who has said he will follow the U.S. sanctions on Iran, back leading Iraq.

Iranian cars and trucks

The Iranian interests concern more than just its battle for regional hegemony against the United States and Saudi Arabia in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and Iraq. The Iranian partnership with Iraq is now more important than ever. Iraq is the most important destination for Iranian fuel, cars and consumer goods, and it could very well serve as a channel for bypassing U.S. sanctions and a source of dollars and banking operations limited by the sanctions.

Iran is trying to put former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki back into the post. Maliki is the enemy of the Kurds and Sunnis, and would ensure Iran’s continued influence on the country. According to reports form Iraq, the commander of the Revolutionary Guards’ Quds force, Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, visited the city of Najaf, which is holy for the Shi’ites, last week. He also visited Erbil, the capital of the Kurdish region; both trips were meant to convince the political leaders to remove Abadi’s supporters and establish an alternative bloc that would support Maliki.

Iran, one of the first countries to open a consulate in the Kurdish region, is well connected to the Kurdish leadership – not just because 5 million Kurds live in Iran, who suffer persecution and repression. Iran also exports millions of dollars of goods to the Kurds. Tehran’s main tool for pressuring the Kurds is the series of border crossings it can open or close as it sees fit; in doing so it can batter the Kurdish region, which already suffers from a chronic lack of funds.

As for Qatar, it’s very active among the Sunnis and encourages the Sunni leaders to present ambitious demands in return for participating in the political bloc that would forge a government. The United States is terrified by the possibility that Maliki will return as prime minister and strongly supports Abadi’s candidacy.

This may be where the interests of the anti-American Sadr meet those of Washington, but it’s also clear to the United States that any Iraqi prime minister who wins Sadr’s support can’t deny his anti-American positions. And what interests Washington at the moment is for the next Iraqi government to follow its sanctions policies – whatever the political price.

We can assume that U.S. President Donald Trump would be happy if Saddam could be resurrected and returned to power in Iraq. He was certainly the type of leader Trump admires and one who would adopt the sanctions policy. It’s ironic that it was actually George Bush Sr. and Jr., Republicans, who created the processes that are now affecting Iraq and threatening their successor’s policies.

The Modernization of Babylon the Great’s Nukes

The modern nuclear arsenal: A nuclear weapons expert describes a new kind of Cold War

Jenny Starrs

Secrecy, bombastic threats and doomsday talk abound when talking about nuclear weapons, so The Post sat down with expert Hans Kristensen to clear the air. (Jenny Starrs /The Washington Post)

With the flurry of talks with North Korea and the fallout from the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, nuclear weapons have become a major topic of discussion in recent months. But secrecy abounds: Who has what weapons? How many? How much damage could they do?

Hans Kristensen tries to answer those questions. As the director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, Kristensen and his colleagues delve into open source data, analyze satellite imagery and file requests under the Freedom of Information Act to get the most accurate picture of the world’s nuclear-armed countries. The initiative produces reports on nuclear weapons, arms control and other nuclear matters, and gives recommendations on how to reduce the role and number of nuclear weapons worldwide.

Kristensen sat down with The Washington Post to discuss how the United States’s nuclear capabilities stack up with the rest of the world, and potential problems down the road. The questions and answers have been edited for brevity.

Why do you have to come up with estimates about the stockpiles? Why don’t we have hard data?

KRISTENSEN: Countries like to keep nuclear weapons data secret. That’s the tendency. It varies from country to country a lot. In the United States, there’s a lot of information available. It wasn’t always like that. There has been a process in the United States where the government has gradually become more at ease, if you will, with disclosing a certain amount of information. There are still secrets, by all means. But a lot of information can come out.

In other countries, it’s not like that. So it varies tremendously from country to country. In some countries, even if you try to collect this information, you go to jail. So we find ourselves in a very interesting role where for countries like China, we can provide information to people in China that want to have a discussion about nuclear weapons, because they can use information coming from outside. They don’t have to do their own homework.

One thing that really sticks out on your bio was that in 2010 you almost completely accurately estimated the U.S. stockpile. How much were you off on that?

KRISTENSEN: 13 weapons out of a stockpile of 5,113. But of course that didn’t come about because of one person doing some work over six months. It came about because many, many people over the years have been digging in and gleaning information from congressional hearings, budget documents, declassified documents that were released under the Freedom of Information Act. And so I was sort of standing on the shoulders of the giants that have created the methodology to do this and just happened to get really, really close to the real number, this top secret number, when the Obama administration in 2010 finally decided to declassify the actual number of nuclear warheads in the U.S. military stockpile.

So that was the number then, and now it has changed?

KRISTENSEN: That was the number then. Since then, they have reduced more. We’re down to about 4,000 now. There’s always been these fluctuations in the nuclear stockpile, but since the end of the Cold War, the trend has been very consistent going south. Fewer and fewer nuclear weapons. Now it’s sort of leveling out a bit and it’s sort of part of a broader trend, if you will, of nuclear reductions worldwide, where it is if the nuclear weapon states are sort of slowing down the disarmament process and are beginning to look at the long term and seeing, how do we want to exist as nuclear weapon states 20, 30 years from now? And what’s going to be the role of nuclear weapons in the world at that time? So there’s a lot more reluctance to progress toward zero these days than there was just 10 years ago.

There is a dilemma here for the countries to figure out the international security order as we progress down to deep cuts and eventual elimination, potentially. So that’s a really tough issue. But what we’re seeing now is also that we have an up-flare of an adversarial relationship again, most dramatically illustrated by the deterioration of relations between Russia and the West. We are back in a real Cold War type adversarial relationship again. It’s not at the scale or intensity of the Cold War, but it has all the characteristics.

Could you talk about the nuclear triad, who still maintains it and why?

KRISTENSEN: The United States has a triad of strategic nuclear forces. That means we have a land-based ballistic missile force, long-range ballistic missiles. They are in silos in the Midwest. We have about 400 of those silos loaded right now with long-range ballistic missiles. Each of those missiles currently carries one nuclear warhead, but some of them can be uploaded to carry more if we need them to. They have such a long range, they can reach anywhere on the planet where they need to go. That means in Russia, China, North Korea, wherever.

Then we have a second leg, which is the ballistic missile submarine force at sea, on board strategic submarines, nuclear powered submarines, very big ships that dive and disappear in the ocean for three months. And their role, essentially, is ultimately to hide so that if an adversary decided to conduct a first strike and try to wipe out everything on land, there was no way they could avoid a devastating retaliatory strike from those submarines.

They also have a third leg, which is the air leg, which is long-range strategic bombers. They can carry a variety of weapons, gravity bombs of different kinds, but also long-range cruise missiles. So either they can fly all the way into their target and drop a gravity bomb on it, or they can loiter off the coast and employ their nuclear cruise missiles from those positions and they will they find their way into their targets.

They also have a fourth leg we don’t normally hear about when we talk about triads. There’s also a leg that is a nonstrategic leg, a tactical leg. It consists of shorter-range fighter aircraft and shorter-range missile systems that can for example go on ships and submarines. They may be designed to blow up other ships or attack land targets. Or the Russians, for example, today still have nuclear torpedoes for their submarines that could be used to shoot other submarines, but with nuclear explosives.

Is cost one reason that some countries don’t maintain nuclear triads, and how has that discussion gone in the U.S.?

KRISTENSEN: Cost is important, but by and large, countries make the sacrifice they need to make if they really think it’s important. The thing with nuclear forces is that they’re very expensive to develop: you have to go through a very long testing program, both for delivery systems and for the warheads themselves, command and control, all these elements that constitute a nuclear posture. And that costs a lot of money to develop. Once you have it, you can maintain it at much less of a cost. You need to overhaul it from time to time.

But if you look at the U.S. nuclear arsenal today compared with what the entire defense budget costs, it’s only a small portion of it. And so there are a lot of people who fall for the temptation to say, see, nuclear weapons are very cheap. So we shouldn’t worry about a modernization program. But that’s not exactly how it works. Any country doesn’t want just nuclear weapons. They want a full military, and nuclear weapons are not very useful because you can’t use them. So you need to have them in the background, so to speak. So you don’t want too much nuke and you don’t want too much nuke to eat up too much of the total defense budget, because then you have to take that money from other conventional programs that might actually be more usable and more vital for the military operations you’re planing to do.

So what we’re seeing right now is that, in the case of the United States, the share of nuclear weapons eat up something in the order of about 4 percent of the defense budget. Because of the modernization program we’ve set in motion, that might increase to about 6, 7, 8 percent in the next decade. So we hear this argument a lot that, oh, it’s very cheap, but it actually creates some serious problems for defense planning.

In your analysis, is the path we’re on a sustainable one?

KRISTENSEN: The current modernization program, to the best we can see, is not sustainable economically. It’s not that the United States couldn’t pay for all of those modernizations if it really wanted to, of course it could. But it would have to take that money from somewhere else. So we’d have to cut some conventional programs and use that money on nuclear instead. And that’s a huge dilemma inside military planning.

So what’s happening now is that there are so many warning signs already that in the ’20s, the cost of the nuclear modernization program is going to force cuts elsewhere in the defense budget, if you want to pay for it. So right now there are people who are out saying, well, why don’t we adjust the nuclear modernization program now, so we don’t have to make these catastrophe cuts later in that may mess up a program or create confusion about our posture and all these types of things.

But we have a very die-hard nuclear advocacy group or community right now that, every time they go to Congress and testify about the nuclear modernization program, it’s like, “Oh no, this is the only one, this is all we can do. Oh no, we can pay for it, it’s only a small portion of defense budget.” They just keep perpetuating this and all the warning signs are out that there are going to be some nasty adjustments that have to be made.