Monday, January 28, 2013


                Though Weapons of Mass Destruction (hereafter referred to as “WMD”) possess an immense destructive capability, it is important to understand their limitations, means of employment, and the theory behind their existence in order to understand how they can be controlled. Though a number of countries may possess WMDs, not all countries that possess WMDs have symmetric capabilities, in terms of both raw destructive power and the ability to employ that power. The classic triad of “nuclear, biological, and chemical” weapons must be deployed, and respectively countered, in much different ways.
                The general attitude surrounding WMD ownership by states is that WMDs provide a level of deterrence. Their sheer destructive power creates a situation in which other states may give pause before attempting aggression, as the damage and losses they will take will simply not be worth as any potential gains. However, the unilateral possession of WMDs creates a situation in which one actor may potentially inflict devastating damage upon its neighbors with impunity; thus neighboring or potentially hostile states end up developing their own WMD programs to provide parity. This creates a situation known as “Mutually Assured Destruction”, a standoff in which either party is totally incapable of acting against the either since both are equally vulnerable. The Publication “GETTING MAD: NUCLEAR MUTUAL ASSURED DESTRUCTION, ITS ORIGINS AND PRACTICE” by the US Army’s Strategic Studies Institute notes that MAD seems to straddle a line between policy and theoretical conundrum; a state with WMDs must accept its vulnerability in order to enjoy the benefits of WMD deterrence as it reaches an equilibrium of power. (1.usa.gov/Nmkute)  Refusing to accept such vulnerabilities tends to create an arms race that can involve a huge and significant investment in resources even by the accounts of proponents of winning an “arms race”. (bit.ly/10IUWDk) The greatest problem is that WMDs cannot be actively used like other military assets without significant risk; for example, a state can use warships to provide a show of force or conduct anti-piracy operates, whereas it would be impractical for a state to use chemical agents to kill off pirates. In addition, there is no real means of “defending” oneself from WMDs, as former Admiral Stansfield Turner points out, since even a 1% failure rate of a “defensive system” results in a totally unacceptable level of loss and destruction. (bit.ly/WGTWsQ)
                This has led some, such as neorealist scholar Kenneth Waltz, to propose that WMDs such as nuclear weapons are, despite their destructive power, ultimately good for the world and should proliferate since their presence deters interstate aggression and creates a balance of power. (bit.ly/TJ6UtR) However, there is an increasing sentiment towards counter-proliferation of nuclear weapons and WMDs, with even fairly hawkish former policy makers such as Henry Kissinger and William J. Perry regarding MAD as antiquated. (bit.ly/crpjMu) The rise of non-state actors such as terrorist groups has, in the view of these policy makers, disrupted any sort of balance MAD provided as such groups do not feel the same vulnerability that state actors do and are more inclined to use such weapons. In addition, it has been considered problematic that the countries most inclined to develop weapons of mass destruction are in unstable regions of the world and may not be run by totally stable regimes. (1.usa.gov/112PjPq) Since such regimes may lack the technical means to strike through conventional means, the use of unconventional means such as terrorist groups and intermediaries may be their only means of providing parity against potentially hostile states.
                The employment of WMDs requires both a weapon as well as a means of deployment. Weapons also have different destructive properties, and have differing levels of technical feasibility for both state and non-state actors. Nuclear weapons come in two varieties, fission and fusion bombs. Fission bombs use masses of fissile material (enriched uranium or plutonium) to cause critical reactions that result in the destruction of a small portion of the mass of the material, unleashing large amounts of energy. Fusion bombs, also known as hydrogen bombs, rely on the fusion of hydrogen atoms into helium to produce large volumes of energy. The fusion process unleashes substantially more energy, but requires a large amount of energy to initiate the reaction; so a fission bomb is used at the core of the weapon to initiate the explosion. (http://bit.ly/10IUWDk) Though nuclear weapons have an immense amount of destructive capacity, they are difficult to manufacture and deliver. Acquisition of fissile material is difficult due to its rarity in the natural world, and must be refined (in the case of uranium) or manufactured (in the case of plutonium) on industrial levels to acquire in a level substantial enough to build a bomb. (bit.ly/SXs59P; bit.ly/LtTQp) In addition to a complex acquisition process for fissile material, the weapons in question often require a high degree of precision to work properly. (bit.ly/MePque) Thus the ability to produce a nuclear weapon from scratch is essentially out of the reach of a non-state actor; though the acquisition of nuclear weapons through other means remains a distinct possibility.
                Chemical weapons can vary immensely in form, and range from nerve agents to blister agents to choking agents (bit.ly/XFqj9H). All three target different components of the human body, and have varying degrees of potential lethality. Unlike nuclear weapons, which unleash immediate and indiscriminate destructive power, chemical weapons vaporize and enter the human body through skin pores, eyes, or expiration; doing little to no damage to structures and objects. What makes chemical weapons unique is their potential lethality mixed with their relative ease of production. Though many of the more advanced nerve agents are complex to manufacture and are limited largely to state actors, simple agents can be easily procured and produced by terrorists. (1.usa.gov/WjIQvJ; 1.usa.gov/bnsiE7) Chemical weapons have often been considered the most feasible means of terrorists using a WMD, and were used in several high profile attacks by a Japanese cult in the 1990s. (bit.ly/XFue6r) Chemical weapons also bear a storied history of use during warfare, and remain a major component of the arsenals of many states which do not have the means or desire to acquire nuclear weapons. (bit.ly/xLJJnL)
                Biological weapons remain a potent element of the WMD triad, and unlike chemical or nuclear weapons, a biological weapon attack can theoretically spread beyond its initial point of release to inflict casualties over a much wider geographical area. (bit.ly/14oFTgb) Using pathogens and microorganisms, a state or non-state actor can infect the population with an affliction, which may in theory spread over time causing additional casualties and panic as an epidemic spreads.  However, biological weapons require incubation and production, and distribution of biological agent requires proper weather conditions and a means of release (usually an aerosol spray) if it is to inflict mass casualties; the technical requirements of biological weapons limit their practical effectiveness as a mass casualty weapon without proper expertise. (bit.ly/10YGRfC) Still, by most estimates, most states do not have adequate response capability to a massive biological attack; simulations almost always confirm that if an attack were to be successfully conducted by any actor, state or non-state, the results would be catastrophic. (bit.ly/pHuBFs)
                The most important determinate of the threat that WMDs pose are delivery vehicles. Threats can be assessed based on the technical capabilities of states as related to their delivery capacities. State actors have traditionally mounted WMDs on ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, aircraft, or in artillery shells. Ballistic missiles are rockets that travel at high trajectories at high speeds; ballistic missiles are classified as either theatre ballistic missiles, which are defined as possessing a range less than 3,500 kilometers (with different sub-classifications determining the exact range limitations) or intercontinental ballistic missiles, which can in theory strike anywhere on the globe due to their extensive range. (bit.ly/WHSpTn; bit.ly/YyDkIM) Larger intercontinental ballistic missiles can also be equipped with Multiple Independent Reentry Vehicles, which increase the number of warheads that can be carried at one time. Cruise missiles are miniaturized aircraft that fly at constant altitudes at relatively low speed, usually carrying some form of warhead.  (bit.ly/VhXY9X) Air dropped weapons and artillery fired weapons are very similar to their more conventional cousins, except that the payload is usually much more destructive. The various mechanisms of delivery are important in that not all countries have similar capabilities. Many countries that may possess WMDs do not possess long range missiles or aircraft; and so any use of a WMD on their part would be limited to neighboring states. (bit.ly/WHTdry) Even then, the payload size of some smaller missiles and aircraft may be limited, further decreasing the capability afforded by a delivery vehicle. Due to this, most states in possession of WMDs do not possess the means to strike beyond their specific region and may possess only limited numbers of delivery vehicles, and thus cannot fully exercise deterrence on all possible threats.
                The emergence of non-state actors as possible users of WMDs has forced a reexamination of how WMD employment might occur. Though using a WMD in an unconventional manner is less practical than using a missile or aircraft, it is far from unfeasible and may be harder to stop once in motion. Simple means, such as driving a truck with a warhead onboard or aerosolized a microorganism can all be used to deliver mass destruction. Thus, many states are opting for a strategy of interdiction and partnership building to prevent materials used in WMD production from falling into the hands of non-state actors. (bit.ly/X3a06O) The US in particular has led counter proliferation efforts, in the hopes that overall reductions of WMDs will contribute to a reduced possibility of non-state actors even acquiring WMDs, let alone using them.

25 comments:

  1. You touch briefly on the issue of non state actors and the limitation of delivery systems. I'm wondering what is to prevent a State with limited delivery ability say Pakistan from launching a WMD strike on say India using a non-convential delivery system. For example what of the Mumbai attackers were armed with aren gas canisters? Also I know the Soviets developed a briefcase nuke what happens when individuals detonate those bombs right next to India's WMD bases in coordination with a all out Nuclear attack from Pakistanis conventional and reaming WMD arsenal. The point I'm trying to get across do you think States working with non state actors have the ability to launch preemptive strikes and eliminate there enemies ability to reply in kind.

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    1. What limits the ability of Pakistan, or any other WMD actor from eliminating its adversary's WMD capabilities in one-fell swoop is the massive amount of coordination needed. The idea of a first succeeding is fairly implausible because a tremendous amount of planning and timing would have to go into both hitting each facility with the right timing and fully saturating each facility enough to make sure it's destroyed. Even with conventional means, in which timing can be controlled for by taking into account flight times of the various delivery vehicles, there's no guarantee each projectile will hit, and the degree of accuracy needed to destroy a hardened facility with low-yield weapons is often times much higher than the delivery vehicle can produce (since most countries do not have higher yield "hydrogen bombs").

      Meanwhile, unconventional means, like trucks, small aircraft, or even personnel based, etc. are subject to many more factors that cannot be controlled. If the truck hits a traffic jam, for example, that's time lost getting to the facility that might prevent it from making schedule. In addition, weapons that are easily portable are usually low yield, and would require being brought as close as possible to facilities, which then brings the new obstacle of either infiltrating or assaulting a well-defended objective. This means either more manpower has to be brought to bear to support a nuclear attack (assault option) or the size of the warhead has to be further reduced to be conspicuous, decreasing the margin of area for final destination. All of this would have to be done at every single facility and go off without a hitch in every single case. If there is even a single failure, any WMD facilities that survive can now be brought to bear, and to go off what Stansfield Turner was saying, a 1% failure rate is totally unacceptable.

      What this means, in broader terms, is that the use of WMDs by non-state actors would likely be deployed against civilians, since they are softer targets and the "margin of error" to conduct a relatively successful strike is fairly low. In addition, considering scheduling concerns and the supporting manpower needed otherwise, it makes more sense to attack civilians. The utility of non-state actors as a delivery vehicle only makes sense perhaps as a mechanism of subversion or revenge, but not as a medium for a first strike.

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    2. I disagree with Chris. I think there it is well within the realm of possibility that state and non-state actors could work together to detonate a 'first strike' attack. I definitely don't think that a lack of planning would be a barrier in this case. I mean, if a group or organization has access to WMD's, surely they would be able to plan sufficiently in order to use them.

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    3. Another issue is the surprise factor. For lack of a better term the fog of war is in itself potentially far more crippling than any psychical damage that might be done. Hypothetically going back to our India Pakistan scenario this time using India as the aggressor. Say a medium yield Nuclear weapon in the back of a truck driven by Militants allied with India or at least anti-Pakistan government enough to cooperate with the Indian Military and Intelligence services. They detonated in Islamabad taking with it the Government and High command crippling high command and throwing the nations defenses into a state of total confusion. Minutes later the Indian Air force launches a preemptive conventional or nuclear strike against Pakistanis remaining nuclear arsenal. With central command in disarray and the nations ability to retaliate with its own WMD's crippled one could argue the nation now lays open for attack. The need for complex coordination and planning on India's part is relatively small. If the bomb goes off launch the jets if it doesn't well just deny that it was ours. In a round about way I guess my question is if an asymmetrical first strike is possible. Will that push nations such as Pakistan to develop a three tier delivery system e.g. Nuclear armed submarines, and as a further safe guard localized command and control making the possibility of an accidental launch or a deliberate launch by rouge elements more likely?

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    4. Meghan,
      The problem is that delivery by non-state actors is reliant on means that are subject to many more variables, some of which are too mundane to really plan against. If something so simple as a traffic jam might theoretically throw off your schedule (which is also extremely sensitive if you're coordinating multiple attacks as the original scenario posited), it's really hard to develop a watertight plan. And the plan has to be exactly that since any failure at all will mean a retaliatory WMD strike; a plan that has no risk is outside the realm of plausibility.

      Jeff,
      Again, such a plan does possess a great deal of complexity. I'm not sure how large a warhead you're referring to by "medium yield", whether you mean "medium" relative to the overall Indian arsenal or medium relative to all bombs (the latter is not in the Indian arsenal). For sake of argument, I'll just use the largest known weapon in the nuclear arsenal, which has a yield of 25 kilotons (Indian claims 60 but seismic and scientific data from the test disagrees). Using this 25 kiloton bomb, it would be possible to damage a number of districts in Islamabad, but not knock out the entire defense apparatus of Pakistan. For example, the Pakistan Presidency is located some distance away from the facilities of the Ministry of Defense (which is in Rawalpindi). In order to hit all facilities with coordination, the same problem is before arises, infiltrating or assaulting positions to get the weapons in range and having to coordinate multiple bombs despite an immense set of variables. In addition, Pakistan is believed to have delegated control of its nuclear forces to respective commands; the loss of certain facilities does not proclude commanders indepedently deciding the use weapons, a decision made deliberately in response to the threat of an Indian preemptive attack. Even if the first set of strikes were perfectly successful, in order to meet the scheduling demand of "minutes later" following nuclear strikes on Pakistani high command, Indian aircraft would have to be airborne before any attack took place. These aircraft would also be subject to scheduling constraints, as they would either loiter near the border while waiting for the strike to commence (Which might turn some heads in Pakistan) or scrap the "minutes later" scheduling and give Pakistan enough breathing room to potentially fire off a retaliatory strike. In addition, India's warhead count is actually smaller than Pakistan's (according the estimate of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists), which means every Indian warhead used has to be backed up with conventional attacks to back up attacks on some of the softer Pakistani faciities (again, requiring even more coordination as large conventional strike forces have to be assembled to fight their way through Pakistan's air defense and successfully destroy the facilities), but also meaning that India has no warheads to spare. Every single atomic bomb has to reach its target or else the strike still fails.

      Obviously, these are significant hurdles for an preemptive assault. An asymetric first strike with intent to knock out a nation's ability for military response is very hard to assemble. However, this doesn't rule an asymetric first strike per se, only it's utility for certain things. For example, the detonation of a nuclear weapon within a major population center with implicit Indian support isn't outside of the question, and there is a chance that a state that supported the attack could get away with it. However, the level of risk for retaliation is still high; and so long as there is a looming threat of retaliation the decision to condone and support an asymetric attack is one that would not be taken lightly.

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    5. I think it is important to differentiate between nuclear powers. The idea of a state working with a non-state actor to execute an asymmetric attack is a very real threat, but not all states are the same. As Chris pointed out, India does not have the nuclear arsenal to completely level Pakistan's high command. Just because they are a 'nuclear state' does not mean they have unlimited capabilities. Pakistan is notorious for not having enough safe-guards on their weapons and facilities but they are not unprotected. Pakistan would only need a few minutes to launch a counterattack so as long as there is some possibility of that happening, I find it hard to believe that India would risk retaliation.

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  2. From reading the section on Biological weapons, correct me if I'm mistaken, that the incubation period and lack of a single mass distribution system are seen as weaknesses.

    I would disagree with this notion, instead arguing that these are both benefits of a potential biological attack. An attack in which a disease can be spread from person A to person Z without person A even knowing that he is infected shows that it would be extremely hard to fight. There is also the idea that a terrorist attack is designed to provoke fear. If a small "attack," or rather, infection is carried out on a few people without the massive spectacle of a traditional attack, I would argue that it would be more effective. Fear of the unknown enemy would be far worse than the fear of a known one, especially an unknown enemy who could carry out a biological attack.

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    1. As mentioned in class earlier, "incubate" was a poor choice of wording. Maybe "ferment" might have better addressed what I was trying to see, which is that the microorganisms have to be cultured and grown in order to be available in any sizeable quantity. As for the problem of distribution, actually spreading the disease can take effort since it's not always as simple as just letting the microorganism out into the air, since there need to be both people to breath in the microorganism and air conditions suitable to physically carry the microorganism to the person (or, if attempting a different route like contamination of water supply, etc., there comes the issue of actually getting it into the water supply in sufficient mass).

      Still, all of these technical challenges aren't prohibitive, they're just obstacles to be overcome by any group (whether state or non-state) that wants to use biological weapons. And as you stated, biological warfare is perhaps the scariest of all. Even a small attack introduces psychologically scary possibilities.

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  3. As we discussed in class, most countries, if not all, are grossly unprepared to deal with a biological attack. Even ought other WMDs are more destructive, biological weapons are still a major potential threat. Why do you think the shortcomings in preparedness for a biological attack have not been addressed?

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    1. The primary reason has been the overshadowing of biological weapons by more "mundane" and "scary" forms of terrorism (respectively). I don't mean to say there's something mundane about suicide bombings or airline hijackings, only that although they are less outlandish and present less of a sheer threat, they happen with a much greater deal of frequency; thus policy actors and agents have had to calibrate their anti-terrorism strategies. They also lack the sheer shock value of nuclear weapons, and thus have taken a backseat to the "scarier" of the weapons. The reality is that policymakers have to calibrate their response relative to scarce resources of manpower and funding, and biological weapons have been evaluated as less of a threat than other possibilities.

      As for conventional biological attacks by states, as I assume your post also intended to cover, many states have dismantled their biological weapons programs, and many others that have the capability for biological weapons programs seem to lack the requisite delivery vehicles to present a global threat.

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  4. Towards the end, you touch on the challenges associated with the potential use of WMD by non-state actors, such as terrorist organizations. Could you expand on that challenge?

    Knopf points out that traditional conceptions of deterrence may fail to deter terrorists from using WMD, partly because "terrorist organizations ... ‘lack a return address’ against which to retaliate" (Knopf 2010, 9). Do you agree with this argument? Does deterrence break down if the potential combatants are not geographic entities?

    Alternatively, what potential gains would a state gain from transferring WMD to terrorist organizations? A rouge state with a small nuclear arsenal would seem to have more to gain from holding onto their weapons for their deterrence capability. Wouldn't such a transfer undermine a rouge state's attempt at establishing a credible deterrent? Is it realistic that Western intelligence agencies would not be able to establish the weapon(s)' state-of-origin?

    Sources:

    Knopf, J. W. (2010). The Fourth Wave in Deterrence Research. Contemporary Security Policy, 31(1), 1–33.

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    1. The specific challenge is, as you point out, there is no specific "return address" to which a retaliatory strike could be sent. As our discussion in class of the Talmadge article pointed out, it is possible to threaten specific state actors for helping supply nuclear weapons, and potentially possible to identify who was responsible. Still, much of the ability to identify a responsible actor is like all intelligence, very calibrated and educated "guess work". All the physical and scientific information taken in has to be calibrated against details of state's nuclear weapons programs... Except that not all details may be forthcoming. As Talmadge writes, "it may become possible to determine the material’s origins or at least to exclude certain sources and then identify the culprit through a process of elimination when combined with other intelligence and data about the situation".

      Obviously, it is possible to figure out some of the elements that went into bomb making, but the methodology isn't perfect. Still, given the paucity of states capable of building bombs, it seems conceivable Western intelligence could determine the origin point; though how timely any assessment could be made is up for debate by people far more qualified than me.

      AS for what a rogue state might gain from giving WMDs to non-state actors, the answer is that not all states have equal delivery capabilities. Primitive ICBMs are out of reach of most states, let alone advanced delivery technologies. Limitations of range and precision basically mean that the only credible means of using a bomb against an adversary who may be a world away would be to give the weapon to a group who would then smuggle it into said country and be the ones ultimately responsible for its use. This is, as you've said, not perfect. It involves giving up control over the weapon to a group that may or may not be compliant with even the demands of the rogue state, and sacrificing what may be a (relatively) large chunk of a small nuclear arsenal. The gain, which is delivery capability and deterrence without range limitations, comes at the price of risk.

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  5. In your presentation you touched on the UN's "Global Zero" initiative, the project sees no good in Nuclear weapons and supports complete global disarmament. I was wondering if you could elaborate on which countries have signed on to the mission of this initiative? And what the framework of achieving this goal looks like?

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    1. Global Zero is for now an organization and movement, and doesn't have a treaty on the table for signing. The "Global Zero Plan" proposed by the organization essentially has phased disarmament plan which initially focuses on US and Russian arsenals until 2019-2023, in which case plans for global disarmament would developed. This would culminate with total global disarmament by 2030.

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  6. At the end of class someone mentioned cyber warfare. Theres a lot of talk about nuclear weapons, anthrax, state actors, and non state actors, but what about a real threat that happens daily? At what point would the U.N. and other organizations classify cyber warfare as a WMD if not already? By using a computer a single person, group of people, or a state could cause massive harm on a populous.By using this style of warfare it is much easy, less expensive, and a lower level of getting caught. What will the future hold for cyber warfare in relation to WMD.

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    1. Additionally, to what extent can states supervise and restrict cyberwarfare without infringing on state sovereignty and people's privacy?

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    2. Greg,

      The reality is that the UN definition is tricky, and tacks the level of destructiveness that any future weapon must accomplish to the nuclear bomb. What's even more problematic is attempting to equate the destructive power of an intangible means of attack to a nuclear bomb. We can use metrics like casualties or blast yield to equate other such weapons, like new large yield conventional munitions, but there's no direct convertible scale other than material objects rendered totally inoperable by a cyber attack. What this means is that to consider a cyber attack a WMD, it would have to inflict a great deal of physical damage. The thing is that with no precedent of a cyber attack ever being that destructive, it's something that would have to be classified as a WMD ex post facto. The UN and other organizations would basically have to see the nightmare scenario happen in order to classify a cyber attack as a WMD. Obviously, the nightmare scenario isn't impossible, but the level of sophistication such an attack would need means it's not the most imminent of threats, and I'm a little reluctant to classify it as a WMD just yet because the term becomes too inclusive (and by proxy meaningless) if you start including attacks that haven't formally reached the level of destruction demanded by the definition. The future of cyber warfare is obviously going to be meaningful, I just think it deserves its own set of focus rather than necessarily being overlapped with WMDs.

      Chelsea,
      Balancing privacy and security is dicey, and the reality is that there might not be a practical way in the cyber realm. Privacy enables the secrecy needed to conduct cyber warfare effectively, which means it's somewhat antithetical to security concerns. Finding the sweet spot of both privacy and security is something we'd do in an ideal world, but the reality is that threats are adaptive. The sweet spot shifts over time as threats learn to adapt to the remaining vestiges of privacy.

      I'm not advocating the total dissolution of privacy, only that in terms of pure cyber security, it's difficult to fight over solely the internet with "shackles". However, the FBI (for better or for worse) has had a great deal of luck by physically infiltrating groups that conduct hacking attacking. A great of damage was done to the hacker group Anonymous after the FBI planted an informant in the group, and notorious leaker Bradley Manning was arrested from information obtained by a hacker turned government informant. Whether or not anyone agrees with the actions above, physical infiltration can provide a way into the circle's that plan such attacks and enable them to be stopped in the real world.

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  7. Do you think having sanctions or military intervention is more affective in preventing WMDs from being developed?

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    1. We'll see. There's really not too many real cases we can turn to in either case. It is known that military action against Iraq in 1998 (Operation Desert Fox) persuaded Saddam Hussein to give up his chemical weapons program clandestinely, since the facilities needed to produce chemical weapons were seriously damaged and the expense of bringing the program back online likely wasn't worth another attack, but we only found this out years later after we attack Saddam Hussein for allegedly not giving up his chemical weapons program. In the case of Iraq, sanctions did not seem to be working, and a direct military strike seemed to have work, though hubris over the true effectiveness of military strikes brought us down a different path. Still, this is only one such case.

      As for Iran, we'll see. The predictions of Dennis Ross, a US Envoy to the Middle East in a variety of positions, is that Iranian leaders appear to actually be cracking under the weight of sanctions (he notes changes in rhetoric and a level of inflation that, while not the largest in Iranian history, has been the most sustained), though who knows if they'll yield before actually getting a nuclear weapon.

      Based on available information, I'd err on the side of military intervention, but the costs of using preemptive military intervention can be high.

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  8. Do you think its possible to define a Massive Cyber attack as use of a WMD??

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    1. Under UN definition, only in the most extreme of potential cases. The UN definition ties the classification of future weapons as WMDs to their potential to deliver a level of destruction equal to a nuclear bomb. It's difficult to really equate that level of destruction when the means of attack is intangible, and the outcome won't necessarily be physical destruction but functional destruction (i.e. you can theoretically shut down a hydroelectric dam but you can't blow is up with a cyber attack).

      It's possible, but we need a scale that converts the destructiveness of a cyber attack to that of a nuclear bomb in an objective way.

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  9. In our readings on the Dark Winter simulation, I was wondering if you believed that the mock governmental reaction to the smallpox outbreak was efficient. The use of a biological weapon is more feasible for a terrorist group, yet is still capable of wreaking havoc upon civilians, as we read. Would you prescribe any actions different from those that the simulation actors took? Also, should the US increase its defenses against such an attack since they are possible? Or should it keep its attention and resources geared toward the threat it obviously considers more pressing (nuclear)?

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    1. My take on Dark Winter was that it the leaders being tested were inherently dealing with a situation that was going to be potentially disastrous. All vaccination strategies were set to very quickly deplete the vaccine doses, and even the most conservative option (option 1) was depleted almost immediately. Short of totally putting the brakes on all US commerce, travel, etc. within a very short amount of time after the first case was identified, it seems fairly implausible that Dark Winter could have been resolved "successfully". Obviously, the lack of resources prepared for crisis management is a deficiency the US would have to prepare for well far in advance; however this is problematic since the expense of preparing for every conceivable option would be too great.

      In theory, the US should increase its defenses against bioterror. Yet the limited resources that can be invested, mixed with the more direct fears of a nuclear bomb or even conventional terrorism, are why the US keeps its attention focused elsewhere. I reluctantly agree with this view, since the two latter threats (conventional and nuclear attack) are more likely, and unfortunately we all have to accept the prospective vulnerability and bank on the complexity of bioweapons systems being too great for terror networks to properly employ them simply because the resources are just not available for a strong defense.

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  10. You spoke about proliferation and how it many believe MAD antiquated. While giving up all of our nuclear weapons would be implausible for the United States, do you think it is worth it, from a security stand point, to continue to spend money on new nuclear programs? Ploughshares Fund published research detailing as much as 15$ billion would go to updating warheads and building new nuclear facilities. Are we at a position where we need to spend money to develop more nuclear weapons, or simply maintain our stock?
    http://www.ploughshares.org/sites/default/files/resources/What%20We%20Spend%20on%20Nuclear%20Weapons%20092811.pdf

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    1. As long as the US considers it in our interest to hold on to our nuclear arsenal, maintenance on nuclear weapon is necessary. Any weapons system, whether it be a fighter jet, aircraft carrier, or even a basic infantry rifle, needs maintenance to properly function. The money projected to be spent in this case would likely be to retrofit warheads, since the radioactive decay of plutonium produces helium, which can disrupt the normal function of the bomb (the degree of precision the bomb requires to work is easily disrupted by helium). Therefore, the cores have to be replaced on some regular basis in order to keep the weapons function.

      Developing new weapons is not politically feasible, and doctrinally unnecessary. Under the New START Treaty, it seems more feasible just to maintain current stock, though the bombs do need an occasional overhaul, hence where the money is going.

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