Tuesday, June 17, 2008

LEGACY OF ASHES The History of the CIA.

Counter Intelligence
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The History of the CIA.

By Tim Weiner.

Illustrated. 702 pp. Doubleday. $27.95.

Correction Appended

America’s foes and rivals have long overrated the Central Intelligence Agency. When Henry Kissinger traveled to China in 1971, Prime Minister Chou En-lai asked about C.I.A. subversion. Kissinger told Chou that he “vastly overestimates the competence of the C.I.A.” Chou persisted that “whenever something happens in the world they are always thought of.” Kissinger acknowledged, “That is true, and it flatters them, but they don’t deserve it.”

A few years later, in 1979, Iranian revolutionaries seized the American embassy in Tehran. They captured a C.I.A. case officer named William Daugherty and accused him of running the agency’s entire Middle Eastern spy network while plotting to assassinate Ayatollah Khomeini. Daugherty, who had been in the C.I.A. for only nine months, tried to explain that he didn’t even speak the native tongue, Persian. The Iranians seemed offended that the Americans would send such an inexperienced spy. It was “beyond insult,” Daugherty later recalled, “for that officer not to speak the language or know the customs, culture and history of their country.”

The C.I.A. never did have much luck operating inside Communist China, and it failed to predict the Iranian revolution of 1979. “We were just plain asleep,” said the former C.I.A. director Adm. Stansfield Turner. The agency also did not foresee the explosion of an atom bomb by the Soviet Union in 1949, the invasion of South Korea in 1950, the popular uprisings in Eastern Europe in the 1950s, the installation of Soviet missiles in Cuba in 1962, the Arab-Israeli war of 1973, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990, the explosion of an atom bomb by India in 1998 — the list goes on and on, culminating in the agency’s wrong call on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction in 2002-3.

Tim Weiner’s engrossing, comprehensive “Legacy of Ashes” is a litany of failure, from the C.I.A.’s early days, when hundreds of agents were dropped behind the Iron Curtain to be killed or doubled (almost without exception), to more recent humiliations, like George Tenet’s now infamous “slam dunk” line. Over the years, the agency threw around a lot of money and adopted a certain swagger. “We went all over the world and we did what we wanted,” said Al Ulmer, the C.I.A.’s Far East division chief in the 1950s. “God, we had fun.” But even their successes turned out to be failures. In 1963, the C.I.A. backed a coup to install the Baath Party in Iraq. “We came to power on a C.I.A. train,” said Ali Saleh Saadi, the Baath Party interior minister. One of the train’s passengers, Weiner notes, was a young assassin named Saddam Hussein. Weiner quotes Donald Gregg, a former C.I.A. station chief in South Korea, later the national security adviser to Vice President George H. W. Bush: “The record in Europe was bad. The record in Asia was bad. The agency had a terrible record in its early days — a great reputation and a terrible record.”

And yet the myth of the C.I.A. as an all-knowing, all-powerful spy agency persisted for years, not just in the minds of America’s enemies but in the imagination of many American television-watchers and moviegoers. Among those fooled, at least initially, were most modern presidents of the United States. The promise of a secret intelligence organization that could not only spy on America’s enemies but also influence events abroad, by sleight of hand and at relatively low cost, was just too alluring.

When presidents finally faced the reality that the agency was bumbling, they could be bitter. Reviewing the C.I.A.’s record after his two terms in office, Dwight Eisenhower told the director, Allen Dulles, “I have suffered an eight-year defeat on this.” He would “leave a legacy of ashes” for his successor. A fan of Ian Fleming’s spy stories, John F. Kennedy was shocked to be introduced to the man described by C.I.A. higher-ups as their James Bond — the fat, alcoholic, unstable William Harvey, who ran a botched attempt to eliminate Fidel Castro by hiring the Mafia. Ronald Reagan went along with the desire of his C.I.A. director, William Casey, to bring back the mythical glory days by “unleashing” the agency — and his presidency was badly undermined by the Iran-contra affair.

In Weiner’s telling, a president trying to use the C.I.A. resembles Charlie Brown trying to kick the football. The role of Lucy is played by scheming or inept directors. Dulles is particularly egregious, a lazy, vain con artist who watches baseball games on television while half-listening to top-secret briefings (he assesses written briefings by their weight). Casey mumbles and lies and may have been almost mad from a brain tumor by the end. Even the more honorable directors, like Richard Helms, can’t resist telling presidents what they want to hear. To fit the policy needs of the Nixon White House in 1969, Helms doctored a C.I.A. estimate of Soviet nuclear forces. In a draft of the report, analysts had doubted the Soviet will or capacity to launch a nuclear strike. Helms erased this crucial passage — and for years thereafter, until the end of the cold war, the C.I.A. overstated the rate at which the Soviets were modernizing their arsenal. The C.I.A.’s bogus intelligence on Iraq in 2002-3, based on the deceits of dubious sources like the one known as Curveball, was hardly unprecedented. To justify the Johnson administration’s desire for a pro-war Congressional resolution on Vietnam in 1964, the intelligence community manufactured evidence of a Communist attack on American destroyers in the Gulf of Tonkin.

Weiner, a reporter for The Times who has covered intelligence for many years, has a good eye for embarrassing detail. High-ranking officials, it appears, were often the last to know. When Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990, Robert M. Gates, who is now the secretary of defense but at the time was the first President Bush’s deputy national security adviser, was at a family picnic. A friend of his wife’s joined the picnic and asked him, “What are you doing here?” Gates asked, “What are you talking about?” “The invasion,” she said. “What invasion?” he asked. A year earlier, when the Berlin Wall fell, Milt Bearden, the leader of the C.I.A.’s Soviet division, was reduced to watching CNN and deflecting urgent calls from White House officials who wanted to know what the agency’s spies were saying. “It was hard to confess that there were no Soviet spies worth a damn — they all had been rounded up and killed, and no one at the C.I.A. knew why,” Weiner writes. (The American agents in Moscow had been betrayed by the C.I.A. mole Aldrich Ames.)

Weiner is not the first reporter to see that the C.I.A.’s golden era was an illusion. After the 1975 Church Committee hearings exposed the agency as “the gang that couldn’t shoot straight,” various authors began to deconstruct the myth of the C.I.A., most notably Thomas Powers in “The Man Who Kept the Secrets.” But by using tens of thousands of declassified documents and on-the-record recollections of dozens of chagrined spymasters, Weiner paints what may be the most disturbing picture yet of C.I.A. ineptitude. After following along Weiner’s march of folly, readers may wonder: Is an open democracy capable of building and sustaining an effective secret intelligence service? Maybe not. But with Islamic terrorists vowing to set off a nuclear device in an American city, there isn’t much choice but to keep on trying.

Evan Thomas, an editor at large at Newsweek, is the author of “The Very Best Men: The Daring Early Years of the C.I.A.”

Correction: August 5, 2007

A review on July 22 about “Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA,” by Tim Weiner, referred incorrectly to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates. When Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990, Gates was George H. W. Bush’s deputy national security adviser, not his “top intelligence adviser”; he did not became the director of central intelligence until November 1991.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Commentary: The Saudi Design on Lebanon

by Ali Alyami
IPT News
May 28, 2008

In recent years, Hezbollah has been playing a dangerous game with the Lebanese government. By exploiting multiple pressure points simultaneously, Hezbollah is making remarkable advances in its radical Shia agenda. Earlier this month, Hezbollah seized the mostly-Sunni Muslim West Beirut by force. This ultimately forced the US-backed Lebanese government to join a new unity coalition that gives Hezbollah 11 seats out of 30 in the cabinet, giving them veto power over any decision of the Lebanese government. They were not pressured to disarm in return for this new political power. Additionally,they are allowed to keep their separate telecommunications network and surveillance equipment at Beirut's airport, and are allowed to reinstall the airport security chief linked to the group.[1]

Understandably, Washington has and will continue to bet on its own horse, Prime Minister Fouad Siniora. Meanwhile, the West is exacerbating the situation by aiding autocratic Arab regimes outside Lebanon who are playing Washington for a fool.

More so than any other Arab regime, the Saudi ruling family knows full well that if Hezbollah takes over Lebanon completely, it could form a united front with Iran, Syria, Hamas and Muqtada Al-Sadr's martyrs against Israel, the US and pro-American autocratic Arab regimes, especially the Saudi-Wahhabi alliance. In the long term, such an alliance poses a tremendous threat to Saudi Arabia and its traditional dominance of the Muslim world. But what would happen if this scenario actually played out, and who would inexorably benefit?

Despite the Saudi monarchy's public criticism of Iran's support for its proxies in Syria and Lebanon, a Hezbollah that controlled Lebanon both politically and militarily would further the ideological influence of Saudi Arabia's ruling theocrats. In the short term, the fact that Hezbollah is Shia and the Saudis are Sunnis is largely irrelevant. In fact, the Saudi government would prefer to see the democratically elected (mostly Sunnis and Christians) Lebanese government deposed and replaced by a Islamic system, modeled perhaps on the Wahhabis in Riyadh, the Alawites in Damascus, or the Mullahs in Tehran.

Granted, it is no secret that the Sunni monarchy in Saudi Arabia would like to see the Syrian-Iranian-Hezbollah alliance weakened or dismantled, but their favored method for weakening this alliance makes the Saudis a wild card, not a partner, in America's push for democracy in the Middle East. Specifically, the Saudis know what the Americans fool themselves into ignoring -- that only by force can extremist regimes and groups be countered.

In Saudi eyes, only after Hezbollah seizes all of Lebanon will the US abandon its fantasies of democratization in favor of military confrontation. The goal, then, is to ensure that such a confrontation between the West and the "Shia Crescent" is both imminent and ferocious. What's more, as long as this battle does not spill over Lebanon's borders, the Saudi royals can stoke and benefit from this battle without ever lifting a finger.

Given recent events, if Hezbollah uses the political gains made by its new unity government to consolidate a choke-hold over all of Lebanon (the northern half, as well), then the Saudis expect the Israelis (with US support) to react and, unlike in the summer of 2006, to deal Hezbollah and Syria a lasting, crippling defeat. Riyadh hopes to bait one enemy into fighting another, and in the process, the Saudi royals can ensure their security, survival and ideological reach. This became apparent as the Saudi government frankly blamed Hezbollah announcing that they should "bear the responsibility" for kidnapping two Israeli soldiers which initiated a military response by Israel in July 2006.[2] This is an unprecedented move by an Arab government, especially the Saudi government, which has always led anti-Israeli campaign. The Saudis wanted the Israelis to finish off Hezbollah, but that did not happen.

Now Hezbollah continues to seek the overthrow of Lebanon's legitimate government. However, if Hezbollah continues making gains through its various military and political tactics, then Israel may be forced once again to shape Lebanon to ensure its security, as it tried to do in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The Saudi royals are hoping that Israel will not make the same mistakes twice and thus eliminate Riyadh's theocratic competition for them in Lebanon and elsewhere.

Either way, no one should be deluded by Saudi statements and public charades if and when Israel launches such an assault on Hezbollah's infrastructure in Lebanon, Syria and takes out Iran's nuclear installations. The Saudi royal family will undoubtedly condemn the "Zionists" and the US for supporting them; Riyadh will certainly call for an urgent meeting of the insignificant Arab League, the UN General Assembly and the European Union to condemn Israel, which they will do given historical precedence. The Saudi ruling family also will send massive shipments of food, medicine, tents, doctors and nurses to Lebanon to aid victims of the war, and ultimately, to steal the glory from Hezbollah's remarkable social services programs.

But the real prize for Riyadh will come only after the dust settles. The Saudi government, directly and through prominent businessmen and Prince al-Waleed (the financier of Islamic study departments in prominent American and European universities), will invest heavily in the rebuilding of Lebanon's infrastructure. In doing so, the Saudi government will also invest energy in exporting Wahhabism among the Lebanese Sunni population, headed by the Hariri family, to represent Saudi interests in Lebanon. As with Pakistan, Bangladesh, Yemen, Afghanistan, Bosnia and other places, wherever Saudi largess goes, Wahhabism follows.

In the wake of Hezbollah's temporary siege of Beirut, many Sunnis have lost faith in their leaders and are increasingly likely to turn to militant Sunni militias for "protection." To put it lightly, however, the offensive nature of such "protection" is a Saudi specialty, and it seems unlikely that Washington has the same outcome in mind for Lebanon. Either way, the Saudi royal family and its Wahhabi religious extremists must not be trusted if anyone is serious about winning the "War on Terrorism."

Ali Alyami is the Executive Director of the Washington-based Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia. http://www.cdhr.info

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Great world socioeconomic and political analysis

This is a paper presented several months ago by Herb Meyer at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, which was attended by most of the CEOs from all the major international corporations -- a very good summary of today's key trends and a perspective one seldom sees.

Meyer served during the Reagan administration as special assistant to the Director of Central Intelligence and Vice Chairman of the CIA's National Intelligence Council. In these positions, he managed production of the U.S. National Intelligence Estimates and other top-secret projections for the President and his national security advisers.

Meyer is widely credited with being the first senior U.S.Government official to forecast the Soviet Union's collapse, for which he later was awarded the U.S.National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal, the intelligence community's highest honor. Formerly an associate editor of FORTUNE, he is also the author of several books.




Currently, there are four major transformations that are shaping political, economic and world events. These transformations have profound implications for American business leaders and owners, our culture and on our way of life.

1. The War in Iraq

There are three major monotheistic religions in the world: Christianity, Judaism and Islam. In the 16th century, Judaism and Christianity reconciled with the modern world. The rabbis, priests and scholars found a way to settle up and pave the way forward. Religion remained at the center of life, church and state became separate. Rule of law, idea of economic liberty, individual rights, human Rights-all these are defining points of modern Western civilization. These concepts started with the Greeks but didn't take off until the 15th and 16th century when Judaism and Christianity found a way to reconcile with the modern world. When that happened, it unleashed the scientific revolution and the greatest outpouring of art, literature and music the world has ever known.

Islam, which developed in the 7th century, counts millions of Moslems around the world who are normal people. However, there is a radical streak within Islam. When the radicals are in charge, Islam attacks Western civilization. Islam first attacked Western civilization in the 7th century, and later in the 16th and 17th centuries. By 1683, the Moslems (Turks from the Ottoman Empire) were literally at the gates of Vienna. It was in Vienna that the climatic battle between Islam and Western civilization took place. The West won and went forward. Islam lost and went backward. Interestingly, the date of that battle was September 11. Since them, Islam has not found a way to reconcile with the modern world.

Today, terrorism is the third attack on Western civilization by radical Islam. To deal with terrorism, the U.S. is doing two things. First, units of our armed forces are in 30 countries around the world hunting down terrorist groups and dealing with them. This gets very little publicity. Second we are taking military action in Afghanistan and Iraq.

These actions are covered relentlessly by the media. People can argue about whether the war in Iraq is right or wrong. However, the underlying strategy behind the war is to use our military to remove the radicals from power and give the moderates a chance. Our hope is that, over time, the moderates will find a way to bring Islam forward into the 21st century. That's what our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan is all about.

The lesson of 9/11 is that we live in a world where a small number of people can kill a large number of people very quickly. They can use airplanes, bombs, anthrax, chemical weapons or dirty bombs. Even with a first-rate intelligence service (which the U.S. does not have), you can't stop every attack. That means our tolerance for political horseplay has dropped to zero. No longer will we play games with terrorists or weapons of mass destructions.

Most of the instability and horseplay is coming from the Middle East. That's why we have thought that if we could knock out the radicals and give the moderates a chance to hold power, they might find a way to reconcile Islam with the modern world. So when looking at Afghanistan or Iraq, it's important to look for any signs that they are modernizing.

For example, women being brought into the work force and colleges in Afghanistan is good. The Iraqis stumbling toward a constitution is good.

People can argue about what the U.S. is doing and how we're doing it but anything that suggests Islam is finding its way forward is good.

2. The Emergence of China

In the last 20 years, China has moved 250 million people from the farms and villages into the cities. Their plan is to move another 300 million in the next 20 years. When you put that many people into the cities, you have to find work for them. That's why China is addicted to manufacturing; they have to put all the relocated people to work. When we decide to manufacture something in the U.S., it's based on market needs and the opportunity to make a profit. In China, they make the decision because they want the jobs, which is a very different calculation.

While China is addicted to manufacturing, Americans are addicted to low prices. As a result, a unique kind of economic codependency has developed between the two countries. If we ever stop buying from China, they will explode politically. If China stops selling to us, our economy will take a huge hit because prices will jump. We are subsidizing their economic development; they are subsidizing our economic growth.

Because of their huge growth in manufacturing, China is hungry for raw materials, which drives prices up worldwide. China is also thirsty for oil, which is one reason oil is now over $100 a barrel. By 2020, China will produce more cars than the U.S. China is also buying its way into the oil infrastructure around the world. They are doing it in the open market and paying fair market prices, but millions of barrels of oil that would have gone to the U.S. are now going to China. China's quest to assure it has the oil it needs to fuel its economy is a major factor in world politics and economics.

We have our Navy fleets protecting the sea lines, specifically the ability to get the tankers through. It won't be long before the Chinese have an aircraft carrier sitting in the Persian Gulf as well. The question is, will their aircraft carrier be pointing in the same direction as ours or against us?

3. Shifting Demographics of Western Civilization

Most countries in the Western world have stopped breeding. For a civilization obsessed with sex, this is remarkable. Maintaining a steady population requires a birth rate of 2.1 In Western Europe, the birth rate currently stands at 1.5, or 30 percent below replacement. In 30 years there will be 70 to 80 million fewer Europeans than there are today. The current birth rate in Germany is 1.3. Italy and Spain are even lower at 1.2. At that rate, the working age population declines by 30 percent in 20 years, which has a huge impact on the economy. When you don't have young workers to replace the older ones, you have to import them.

The European countries are currently importing Moslems. Today, the Moslems comprise 10 percent of France and Germany, and the percentage is rising rapidly because they have higher birthrates. However, the Moslem populations are not being integrated into the cultures of their host countries, which is a political catastrophe. One reason Germany and France don't support the Iraq war is they fear their Moslem populations will explode on them. By 2020, more than half of all births in the Netherlands will be non-European.

The huge design flaw in the postmodern secular state is that you need a traditional religious society birth rate to sustain it. The Europeans simply don't wish to have children, so they are dying. In Japan, the birthrate is 1.3. As a result, Japan will lose up to 60 million people over the next 30 years. Because Japan has a very different society than Europe, they refuse to import workers. Instead, they are just shutting down. Japan has already closed 2,000 schools, and is closing them down at the rate of 300 per year. Japan is also aging very rapidly. By 2020, one out of every five Japanese will be at least 70 years old. Nobody has any idea about how to run an economy with those demographics.

Europe and Japan, which comprise two of the world's major economic engines, aren't merely in recession, they're shutting down. This will have a huge impact on the world economy, and it is already beginning to happen. Why are the birthrates so low? There is a direct correlation between abandonment of traditional religious society and a drop in birth rate, and Christianity in Europe is becoming irrelevant.

The second reason is economic. When the birth rate drops below replacement, the population ages. With fewer working people to support more retired people, it puts a crushing tax burden on the smaller group of working age people. As a result, young people delay marriage and having a family. Once this trend starts, the downward spiral only gets worse. These countries have abandoned all the traditions they formerly held in regard to having families and raising children.

The U.S. birth rate is 2.0, just below replacement. We have an increase in population because of immigration. When broken down by ethnicity, the Anglo birth rate is 1.6 (same as France) while the Hispanic birth rate is 2.7. In the U.S., the baby boomers are starting to retire in massive numbers. This will push the elder dependency ratio from 19 to 38 over the next 10 to 15 years. This is not as bad as Europe, but still represents the same kind of trend.

Western civilization seems to have forgotten what every primitive society understands-you need kids to have a healthy society. Children are huge consumers. Then they grow up to become taxpayers. That's how a society works, but the postmodern secular state seems to have forgotten that. If U.S. birth rates of the past 20 to 30 years had been the same as post-World War II, there would be no Social Security or Medicare problems.

The world's most effective birth control device is money. [I love this line!!] As society creates a middle class and women move into the workforce, birth rates drop. Having large families is incompatible with middle class living.

The quickest way to drop the birth rate is through rapid economic development. After World War II, the U.S. instituted a $600 tax credit per child. The idea was to enable mom and dad to have four children without being troubled by taxes. This led to a baby boom of 22 million kids, which was a huge consumer market. That turned into a huge tax base. However, to match that incentive in today's dollars would cost $12,000 per child.

China and India do not have declining populations. However, in both countries, there is a preference for boys over girls, and we now have the technology to know which is which before they are born. In China and India, families are aborting the girls. As a result, in each of these countries there are 70 million boys growing up who will never find wives. When left alone, nature produces 103 boys for every 100 girls. In some provinces, however, the ratio is 128 boys to every 100 girls. [I have read that this creates a potentially explosive situation. You have to keep all these potential sources of political instability contented. One way, historically often used, is war.]

The birth rate in Russia is so low that by 2050 their population will be smaller than that of Yemen. Russia has one-sixth of the earth's land surface and much of its oil. You can't control that much area with such a small population. Immediately to the south, you have China with 70 million unmarried men who are a real potential nightmare scenario for Russia.

4. Restructuring of American Business

The fourth major transformation involves a fundamental restructuring of American business. Today's business environment is very complex and competitive. To succeed, you have to be the best, which means having the highest quality and lowest cost. Whatever your price point, you must have the best quality and lowest price. To be the best, you have to concentrate on one thing. You can't be all things to all people and be the best.

A generation ago, IBM used to make every part of their computer. Now Intel makes the chips, Microsoft makes the software, and someone else makes the modems, hard drives, monitors, etc. IBM even out sources their call center. Because IBM has all these companies supplying goods and services cheaper and better than they could do it themselves, they can make a better computer at a lower cost. This is called a fracturing of business. When one company can make a better product by relying on others to perform functions the business used to do itself, it creates a complex pyramid of companies that serve and support each other.

This fracturing of American business is now in its second generation. The companies who supply IBM are now doing the same thing - outsourcing many of their core services and production process. As a result, they can make cheaper, better products. Over time, this pyramid continues to get bigger and bigger. Just when you think it can't fracture again, it does.

Even very small businesses can have a large pyramid of corporate entities that perform many of its important functions. One aspect of this trend is that companies end up with fewer employees and more independent contractors. This trend has also created two new words in business, integrator and complementor. At the top of the pyramid, IBM is the integrator. As you go down the pyramid, Microsoft, Intel and the other companies that support IBM are the complementors. However, each of the complementors is itself an integrator for the complementors underneath it.

This has several implications, the first of which is that we are now getting false readings on the economy. People who used to be employees are now independent contractors launching their own businesses. There are many people working whose work is not listed as a job. As a result, the economy is perking along better than the numbers are telling us.

Outsourcing also confused the numbers. Suppose a company like General Motors decides to outsource all its employee cafeteria functions to Marriott (which it did). It lays off hundreds of cafeteria workers, who then get hired right back by Marriott. The only thing that has changed is that these people work for Marriott rather than GM. Yet, the media headlines will scream that America has lost more manufacturing jobs.

All that really happened is that these workers are now reclassified as service workers. So the old way of counting jobs contributes to false economic readings. As yet, we haven't figured out how to make the
numbers catch up with the changing realities of the business world.

Another implication of this massive restructuring is that because companies are getting rid of units and people that used to work for them, the entity is smaller. As the companies get smaller and more
efficient, revenues are going down but profits are going up. As a result, the old notion that revenues are up and we're doing great isn't always the case anymore. Companies are getting smaller but are becoming more efficient and profitable in the process.


1. The War in Iraq

In some ways, the war is going very well. Afghanistan and Iraq have the beginnings of a modern government, which is a huge step forward. The Saudis are starting to talk about some good things, while Egypt and Lebanon are beginning to move in a good direction. A series of revolutions have taken place in countries like Ukraine and Georgia.

There will be more of these revolutions for an interesting reason. In every revolution, there comes a point where the dictator turns to the general and says, Fire into the crowd. If the general fires into the crowd, it stops the revolution. If the general says No, the revolution continues. Increasingly, the generals are saying No because their kids are in the crowd.

Thanks to TV and the Internet, the average 18-year old outside the U.S. is very savvy about what is going on in the world, especially in terms of popular culture. There is a huge global consciousness, and young people around the world want to be a part of it. It is increasingly apparent to them that the miserable government where they live is the only thing standing in their way. More and more, it is the well-educated kids, the children of the generals and the elite, who are leading the revolutions.

At the same time, not all is well with the war. The level of violence in Iraq is much worse and doesn't appear to be improving. It's possible that we're asking too much of Islam all at one time. We're trying to jolt them from the 7th century to the 21st century all at once, which may be further than they can go. They might make it and they might not.

Nobody knows for sure. The point is, we don't know how the war will turn out. Anyone who says they know is just guessing.

The real place to watch is Iran. If they actually obtain nuclear weapons it will be a terrible situation. There are two ways to deal with it. The first is a military strike, which will be very difficult. The Iranians have dispersed their nuclear development facilities and put them underground. The U.S. has nuclear weapons that can go under the earth and take out those facilities, but we don't want to do that.

The other way is to separate the radical mullahs from the government, which is the most likely course of action. Seventy percent of the Iranian population is under 30. They are Moslem but not Arab. They are mostly pro-Western. Many experts think the U.S. should have dealt with Iran before going to war with Iraq. The problem isn't so much the weapons, it's the people who control them. If Iran has a moderate government, the weapons become less of a concern.

We don't know if we will win the war in Iraq. We could lose or win. What we're looking for is any indicator that Islam is moving into the 21st century and stabilizing.

2. China

It may be that pushing 500 million people from farms and villages into cities is too much too soon. Although it gets almost no publicity, China is experiencing hundreds of demonstrations around the country, which is unprecedented. These are not students in Tiananmen Square. These are average citizens who are angry with the government for building chemical plants and polluting the water they drink and the air
they breathe.

The Chinese are a smart and industrious people. They may be able to pull it off and become a very successful economic and military superpower. If so, we will have to learn to live with it. If they want to share the responsibility of keeping the world's oil lanes open, that's a good thing. They currently have eight new nuclear electric power generators under way and 45 on the books to build. Soon, they will leave the U.S. way behind in their ability to generate nuclear power.

What can go wrong with China? For one, you can't move 550 million people into the cities without major problems. Two, China really wants Taiwan, not so much for economic reasons, they just want it. The Chinese know that their system of communism can't survive much longer in the 21st century. The last thing they want to do before they morph into some sort of more capitalistic government is to take over Taiwan.

We may wake up one morning and find they have launched an attack on Taiwan. If so, it will be a mess, both economically and militarily. The U.S. has committed to the military defense of Taiwan. If China attacks Taiwan, will we really go to war against them? If the Chinese generals believe the answer is no, they may attack. If we don't defend Taiwan, every treaty the U.S. has will be worthless. Hopefully, China won't do anything stupid.

3. Demographics

Europe and Japan are dying because their populations are aging and shrinking. These trends can be reversed if the young people start breeding. However, the birth rates in these areas are so low it will take two generations to turn things around. No economic model exists that permits 50 years to turn things around. Some countries are beginning to offer incentives for people to have bigger families. For example, Italy is offering tax breaks for having children. However, it's a lifestyle issue versus a tiny amount of money. Europeans aren't willing to give up their comfortable lifestyles in order to have more children.

In general, everyone in Europe just wants it to last a while longer. Europeans have a real talent for living. They don't want to work very hard. The average European worker gets 400 more hours of vacation time per year than Americans. They don't want to work and they don't want to make any of the changes needed to revive their economies.

The summer after 9/11, France lost 15,000 people in a heat wave. In August, the country basically shuts down when everyone goes on vacation.

That year, a severe heat wave struck and 15,000 elderly people living in nursing homes and hospitals died. Their children didn't even leave the beaches to come back and take care of the bodies. Institutions had to scramble to find enough refrigeration units to hold the bodies until people came to claim them. This loss of life was five times bigger than 9/11 in America, yet it didn't trigger any change in French society.

When birth rates are so low, it creates a tremendous tax burden on the young. Under those circumstances, keeping mom and dad alive is not an attractive option. That's why euthanasia is becoming so popular in most European countries. The only country that doesn't permit (and even encourage) euthanasia is Germany, because of all the baggage from World War II.

The European economy is beginning to fracture. Countries like Italy are starting to talk about pulling out of the European Union because it is killing them. When things get bad economically in Europe, they tend to get very nasty politically. The canary in the mine is anti-Semitism.

When it goes up, it means trouble is coming. Current levels of anti-Semitism are higher than ever.

Germany won't launch another war, but Europe will likely get shabbier, more dangerous and less pleasant to live in. Japan has a birth rate of 1.3 and has no intention of bringing in immigrants. By 2020, one out of every five Japanese will be 70 years old. Property values in Japan have dropped every year for the past 14 years. The country is simply shutting down. In the U.S. we also have an aging population. Boomers are starting to retire at a massive rate. These retirements will have several major impacts:

Possible massive selloff of large four-bedroom houses and a movement to condos.

An enormous drain on the treasury. Boomers vote, and they want their benefits, even if it means putting a crushing tax burden on their kids to get them. Social Security will be a huge problem. As this generation ages, it will start to drain the system. We are the only country in the world where there are no age limits on medical procedures.

An enormous drain on the health care system. This will also increase the tax burden on the young, which will cause them to delay marriage and having families, which will drive down the birth rate even further.

Although scary, these demographics also present enormous opportunities for products and services tailored to aging populations. There will be tremendous demand for caring for older people, especially those who don't need nursing homes but need some level of care. Some people will have a business where they take care of three or four people in their homes. The demand for that type of service and for products to physically care for aging people will be huge.

Make sure the demographics of your business are attuned to where the action is. For example, you don't want to be a baby food company in Europe or Japan. Demographics are much underrated as an indicator of where the opportunities are. Businesses need customers. Go where the customers are.

4. Restructuring of American Business

The restructuring of American business means we are coming to the end of the age of the employer and employee. With all this fracturing of businesses into different and smaller units, employers can't guarantee jobs anymore because they don't know what their companies will look like next year. Everyone is on their way to becoming an independent contractor.

The new workforce contract will be: Show up at the my office five days a week and do what I want you to do, but you handle your own insurance, benefits, health care and everything else. Husbands and wives are becoming economic units. They take different jobs and work different shifts depending on where they are in their careers and families. They make tradeoffs to put together a compensation package to take care of the family.

This used to happen only with highly educated professionals with high incomes. Now it is happening at the level of the factory floor worker.

Couples at all levels are designing their compensation packages based on their individual needs. The only way this can work is if everything is portable and flexible, which requires a huge shift in the American economy.

The U.S is in the process of building the world's first 21st century model economy. The only other countries doing this are U.K. and Australia. The model is fast, flexible, highly productive and unstable in that it is always fracturing and re-fracturing. This will increase the economic gap between the U.S. and everybody else, especially Europe and Japan.

At the same time, the military gap is increasing. Other than China, we are the only country that is continuing to put money into their military. Plus, we are the only military getting on-the-ground military experience through our war in Iraq. We know which high-tech weapons are working and which ones aren't. There is almost no one who can take us on economically or militarily.

There has never been a superpower in this position before. On the one hand, this makes the U.S. a magnet for bright and ambitious people. It also makes us a target. We are becoming one of the last holdouts of the traditional Judeo-Christian culture. There is no better place in the world to be in business and raise children. The U.S. is by far the best place to have an idea, form a business and put it into the marketplace.

We take it for granted, but it isn't as available in other countries of the world. Ultimately, it's an issue of culture. The only people who can hurt us are ourselves, by losing our culture. If we give up our Judeo-Christian culture, we become just like the Europeans.

The culture war is the whole ballgame. If we lose it, there isn't another America to pull us out.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

New Israeli security system will read terrorists' minds

New Israeli security system will read terrorists' minds

An Israeli technology firm established in 2003 with the express purpose of developing a system to identify individuals intent on causing mayhem is close to releasing a deployable product.
WeCu (text messaging lingo for "we see you") was set up by leading Israeli researchers at the height of the Palestinian suicide bombing campaign in order to find a technological solution to Israel's growing security problems.
The company's new system, as reported by Ha'retz, can be set up in public areas where it would quietly and quickly scan people without their knowledge. The system uses biometric sensors to determine if an individual is planning to carry out a terror attack, even if the suspect is not carrying a bomb or other weapons at that time. Many terrorists case their targets at least once before carrying out an attack.
If successful, the system would greatly ease the pressure on Israel's security forces and private security firms hired to protect public and private establishments from schools to cafes.

Monday, May 12, 2008

How Syria hid its nukes

With forty 'developing countries' seeking nuclear capabilities (only for civilian energy purposes of course /sarc), the Washington Post reports today on how the Syrians managed to hide the construction of a nuclear plant from the world almost until the very end (Hat Tip: Hot Air).

U.S. and Israeli officials have said the facility was a nearly completed nuclear reactor built with North Korean help and fitted with a false roof and walls that altered its shape when viewed from above.

According to the ISIS report to be released this week, the fake roof was just the start. Syrian engineers went to "astonishing lengths" to hide cooling and ventilation systems, power lines and other features that normally are telltale signs of a nuclear reactor, authors David Albright and Paul Brannan wrote.

For example, the main building appears small and shallow from the air, but it was evidently built over large underground chambers -- tens of meters in depth -- that were large enough to house the nuclear reactor, as well as a reserve water-storage tank and pools for spent fuel rods, the report said.

An extensive network of electrical lines appears to have been buried in trenches. Traditional water-cooling towers were replaced with an elaborate underground system that discharged into the Euphrates River. And, instead of using smokestack-like ventilation towers prominent at many reactor sites, the ventilation system appears to have been built along the walls of the building, with louver openings not visible from the air, the authors contended.

The ISIS report noted that early skepticism that Syria was building a reactor there was based partly on the observable absence of revealing features. "The current domestic and international capabilities to detect nuclear facilities and activities are not adequate to prevent more surprises in the future," the report warned.

Albright, a former U.N. weapons inspector, said his conclusions were based not only on photographs of the Syrian site but also on interviews with government officials who closely monitored the facility while it was under construction.

By the way, those forty countries aren't going to come as a surprise to most of you. Many of them are right here in this region:

Although the United Arab Emirates has a proven oil reserve of 100 billion barrels, the world's sixth-largest, in January it signed a deal with a French company to build two nuclear reactors. Wealthy neighbors Kuwait and Bahrain are also planning nuclear plants, as are Libya, Algeria and Morocco in North Africa and the kingdom of Jordan.

Even Yemen, one of the poorest countries in the Arab world, last year announced plans to purchase a nuclear reactor, which it says is needed to produce electricity; it is one of 11 Middle Eastern states now engaged in starting or expanding nuclear power programs.

Meanwhile, two of Iran's biggest rivals in the region, Turkey and Egypt, are moving forward with ambitious nuclear projects. Both countries abandoned any pursuit of nuclear power decades ago but are now on course to develop seven nuclear power plants -- four in Egypt and three in Turkey -- over the next decade.


"Why would these Gulf states want to go nuclear? Because they know their oil will only become more valuable as global demand increases," McDonald said. "It may be more cost-effective to sell oil to Americans driving SUVs than to burn it domestically."

You've got to be kidding. The amount of oil those countries use domestically is minimal compared with the amount of power a nuclear plant can produce.

But nuclear power can give a country the technological expertise and infrastructure that could become the foundation for a clandestine weapons program.

Such covert programs can be successfully hidden for years, as was demonstrated in recent months by U.S. and Israeli allegations that Syria was building a secret plutonium production reactor near the desert town of Al Kibar. Plutonium is an efficient fuel for nuclear explosions, as well as for power generation.

Both India and Pakistan built nuclear devices using an industrial infrastructure built ostensibly for nuclear power. Taiwan and South Korea conducted weapons research under cover of civil power programs but halted the work after being confronted by the United States.

Gee, ya think? Why would all those Persian Gulf countries want nuclear weapons? I wonder....

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Chinese build secret nuclear submarine base

By Thomas Harding, Defence Correspondent
Last updated: 3:32 PM BST 01/05/2008
China has secretly built a major underground nuclear submarine base that could threaten Asian countries and challenge American power in the region, it can be disclosed.

Satellite imagery, passed to The Daily Telegraph, shows that a substantial harbour has been built which could house a score of nuclear ballistic missile submarines and a host of aircraft carriers.

* Satellite image of the harbour: click to enlarge

In what will be a significant challenge to US Navy dominance and to countries ringing the South China Sea, one photograph shows China’s latest 094 nuclear submarine at the base just a few hundred miles from its neighbours.

Other images show numerous warships moored to long jettys and a network of underground tunnels at the Sanya base on the southern tip of Hainan island.

Of even greater concern to the Pentagon are massive tunnel entrances, estimated to be 60ft high, built into hillsides around the base. Sources fear they could lead to caverns capable of hiding up to 20 nuclear submarines from spy satellites.

The US Department of Defence has estimated that China will have five 094 nuclear submarines operational by 2010 with each capable of carrying 12 JL-2 nuclear missiles.

The images were obtained by Janes Intelligence Review after the periodical was given access to imagery from the commercial satellite company DigitalGlobe.

Analysts for the respected military magazine suggest that the base could be used for "expeditionary as well as defensive operations" and would allow the submarines to "break out to launch locations closer to the US".

It would now be "difficult to ignore" that China was building a major naval base where it could house its nuclear forces and increase it "strategic capability considerably further afield".

The development so close to the sea lanes vital to Asian economies "can only cause concern far beyond these straits".

Military analysts believe that China’s substantial build up of its forces is gaining pace put has remained hidden from the world in the build-up to the Olympics.

China has diverted much of its resources from the huge Peoples Liberation Army to the navy, air force and missile development.

An old Russian aircraft carrier, bought by Beijing for "leisure activities" has been picked over by naval architects who hope to "reverse engineer" the ship.

Within the next five to 10 years the Peoples Liberation Navy is expected to build up to six carriers which will also coincide with the Royal Navy’s construction of two major carriers.

The location of the base off Hainan will also give the submarines access to very deep water exceeding 5,000 metres within a few miles, making them even harder to detect.

Britain’s Trident submarines have to remain on the surface when they leave Faslane in north east Scotland and cannot dive to depth until outside the Irish Sea.

While it has been known that China might be developing an underground base at Sanya, the pictures provide the first proof of the base’s existence and the rapid progress made.

Two 950 metre piers and three smaller ones would be enough to accommodate two carrier strike groups or amphibious assault ships.

Christian Le Miere, editor for Jane's Intelligence Review, said the complex underlined Beijing’s plan “to assert tighter control over this region".

"This is a challenge to any hegemonic power, particularly the US which still remains dominant in the region."

So far China has offered no public explanation for its building at Sanya.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Spy Satellite Blast, Caught on Tape

A Navy missile blasted a dying spy satellite just above the atmosphere late Wednesday night. Here's the footage of the hit.

Space Wars - Coming to the Sky Near You?

Space Wars - Coming to the Sky Near You?
A recent shift in U.S. military strategy and provocative actions by china threaten to ignite a new arms race in space. But would placing weapons in space be in anyone's national interest?

By Theresa Hitchens

“Take the high ground and hold it!” has been standard combat doctrine for armies since ancient times. Now that people and their machines have entered outer space, it is no surprise that generals the world over regard Earth orbit as the key to modern warfare. But until recently, a norm had developed against the weaponization of space—even though there are no international treaties or laws explicitly prohibiting nonnuclear anti­satellite systems or weapons placed in orbit. Nations mostly shunned such weapons, fearing the possibility of destabilizing the global balance of power with a costly arms race in space.

In war, do not launch an ascending attack head-on against the enemy who holds the high ground. Do not engage the enemy when he makes a descending attack from high ground. Lure him to level ground to do battle.
—Sun Tzu, Chinese military strategist, The Art of War, circa 500 B.C.

That consensus is now in danger of unraveling. In October 2006 the Bush administration adopted a new, rather vaguely worded National Space Policy that asserts the right of the U.S. to conduct “space control” and rejects “new legal regimes or other restrictions that seek to prohibit or limit U.S. access to or use of space.” Three months later the People’s Republic of China shocked the world by shooting down one of its own aging Fengyun weather satellites, an act that resulted in a hailstorm of dangerous orbital debris and a deluge of international protests, not to mention a good deal of hand-wringing in American military and political circles. The launch was the first test of a dedicated antisatellite weapon in more than two decades—making China only the third country, after the U.S. and the Russian Federation, to have demonstrated such a technology. Many observers wondered whether the test might be the first shot in an emerging era of space warfare.

Critics maintain it is not at all clear that a nation’s security would be enhanced by developing the means to wage space war. After all, satellites and even orbiting weapons, by their very nature, are relatively easy to spot and easy to track, and they are likely to remain highly vulnerable to attack no matter what defense measures are taken. Further, developing antisatellite systems would almost surely lead to a hugely expensive and potentially runaway arms race, as other countries would conclude that they, too, must compete. And even tests of the technology needed to conduct space battles—not to mention a real battle—could generate enormous amounts of wreckage that would continue to orbit Earth. Converging on satellites and crewed space vehicles at speeds approaching several miles a second, such space debris would threaten satellite-based telecommunications, weather forecasting, precision navigation, even military command and control, potentially sending the world’s economy back to the 1950s.

“Star Wars” Redux
Since the dawn of the space age, defense planners have hatched concepts for antisatellite and space-based weaponry—all in the interest of exploiting the military advantages of the ultimate high ground. Perhaps the most notable effort was President Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI)—derided by its critics as “Star Wars.” Yet by and large, U.S. military strategy has never embraced such weapons.

Traditionally, space weapons have been defined as destructive systems that operate in outer space after having been launched directly from Earth or parked in orbit. The category includes antisatellite weapons; laser systems that couple ground-based lasers with airship- or satellite-mounted mirrors, which could reflect a laser beam beyond the ground horizon; and orbital platforms that could fire projectiles or energy beams from space. (It is important to note that all nations would presumably avoid using a fourth kind of antisatellite weapon, namely, a high-altitude nuclear explosion. The electromagnetic pulse and cloud of highly charged particles created by such a blast would likely disable or destroy nearly all satellites and manned spacecraft in orbit [see “Nuclear Explosions in Orbit,” by Daniel G. Dupont; Scientific American, June 2004].)

But virtually no statement about space weapons goes politically uncontested. Recently some proponents of such weapons have sought to expand the long-held classification I just described to include two existing technologies that depend on passage through space: intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and ground-based electronic warfare systems. Their existence, or so the argument goes, renders moot any question about whether to build space weapons systems. By the revised definition, after all, “space weapons” already exist. Whatever the exact meaning of the term, however, the questions such weapons raise are hardly new to think tanks and military-planning circles in Washington: Is it desirable, or even feasible, to incorporate antisatellite weapons and weapons fired from orbit into the nation’s military strategy?

The new National Space Policy, coupled with the Chinese test, has brought renewed urgency to that behind-the-scenes debate. Many American military leaders expressed alarm in the wake of the Chinese test, worrying that in any conflict over Taiwan, China could threaten U.S. satellites in low Earth orbit. In April 2007 Michael Moseley, the U.S. Air Force chief of staff, compared China’s antisatellite test with the launch of Sputnik by the Soviet Union in 1957, an act that singularly intensified the arms race during the cold war. Moseley also revealed that the Pentagon had begun reviewing the nation’s satellite defenses, explaining that outer space was now a “contested domain.”

Congressional reaction fell along predictable political lines. Conservative “China hawks” such as Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona immediately called for the development of antisatellite weapons and space-based interceptors to counter Chinese capabilities. Meanwhile more moderate politicians, including Representative Edward Markey of Massachusetts, urged the Bush administration to begin negotiations aimed at banning all space weapons.

International Power Plays
Perhaps of even greater concern is that several other nations, including one of China’s regional rivals, India, may feel compelled to seek ­offensive as well as defensive capabilities in space. The U.S. trade journal Defense News, for instance, quoted unidentified Indian defense officials as stating that their country had already begun developing its own kinetic-energy (nonexplosive, hit-to-kill) and laser-based antisatellite weapons.

If India goes down that path, its archrival Pakistan will probably follow suit. Like India, Pakistan has a well-developed ballistic missile program, including medium-range missiles that could launch an antisatellite system. Even Japan, the third major Asian power, might join such a space race. In June 2007 the National Diet of Japan began considering a bill backed by the current Fukuda government that would permit the development of satellites for “military and national security” purposes.

As for Russia, in the wake of the Chinese test President Vladimir Putin reiterated Moscow’s stance against the weaponization of space. At the same time, though, he refused to criticize Beijing’s actions and blamed the U.S. instead. The American efforts to build a missile defense system, Putin charged, and the increasingly aggressive American plans for a military position in space were prompting China’s moves. Yet Russia itself, as a major spacefaring power that has incorporated satellites into its national security structure, would be hard-pressed to forgo entering an arms race in space.

Given the proliferation of spacefaring entities, proponents of a robust space warfare strategy believe that arming the heavens is inevitable and that it would be best for the U.S. to get there first with firepower. Antisatellite and space-based weapons, they argue, will be necessary not only to defend U.S. military and commercial satellites but also to deny any future adversary the use of space capabilities to enhance the performance of its forces on the battlefield.

Yet any arms race in space would almost inevitably destabilize the balance of power and thereby multiply the risks of global conflict. In such headlong competition—whether in space or elsewhere—equilibrium among the adversaries would be virtually impossible to maintain. Even if the major powers did achieve stability, that reality would still provide no guarantee that both sides would perceive it to be so. The moment one side saw itself to be slipping behind the other, the first side would be strongly tempted to launch a preemptive strike, before things got even worse. Ironically, the same would hold for the side that perceived itself to have gained an advantage. Again, there would be strong temptation to strike first, before the adversary could catch up. Finally, a space weapons race would ratchet up the chances that a mere technological mistake could trigger a battle. After all, in the distant void, reliably distinguishing an intentional act from an accidental one would be highly problematic.

Hit-to-Kill Interceptors
According to assessments by U.S. military and intelligence officials as well as by independent experts, the Chinese probably destroyed their weather satellite with a kinetic-energy vehicle boosted by a two-stage medium-range ballistic missile. Technologically, launching such direct-ascent antisatellite weapons is one of the simplest ways to take out a satellite. About a dozen nations and consortia can reach low Earth orbit (between roughly 100 and 2,000 kilometers, or 60 to 1,250 miles, high) with a medium-range missile; eight of those countries can reach geostationary orbit (about 36,000 kilometers, or 22,000 miles, above Earth).

But the real technical hurdle to making a hit-to-kill vehicle is not launch capacity; it is the precision maneuverability and guidance technology needed to steer the vehicle into its target. Just how well China has mastered those techniques is unclear. Because the weather satellite was still operating when it was destroyed, the Chinese operators would have known its exact location at all times.

Ground-Based Lasers
The test of China’s direct-ascent antisatellite device came on the heels of press reports in September 2006 that the Chinese had also managed to “paint,” or illuminate, U.S. spy satellites with a ground-based laser [see lower box on page 83]. Was Beijing actually trying to “blind” or otherwise damage the satellites? No one knows, and no consensus seems to have emerged in official Washington circles about the Chinese intent. Per­haps China was simply testing how well its network of low-power laser-ranging stations could track American orbital observation platforms.

Even so, the test was provocative. Not all satellites have to be electronically “fried” to be put out of commission. A 1997 test of the army’s MIRACL system (for midinfrared advanced chemical laser) showed that satellites designed to collect optical images can be temporarily disrupted—dazzled—by low-power beams. It follows that among the satellites vulnerable to such an attack are the orbital spies.

The U.S. and the former Soviet Union began experimenting with laser-based antisatellite weapons in the 1970s. Engineers in both countries have focused on the many problems of building high-power laser systems that could reliably destroy low-flying satellites from the ground. Such systems could be guided by “adaptive optics”: deformable mirrors that can continuously compensate for atmospheric distortions. But tremendous amounts of energy would be needed to feed high-power lasers, and even then the range and effectiveness of the beams would be severely limited by dispersion, by attenuation as they passed through smoke or clouds, and by the difficulty of keeping the beams on-target long enough to do damage.

During the development of the SDI, the U.S. conducted several laser experiments from Hawaii, including a test in which a beam was bounced off a mirror mounted on a satellite. Laser experiments continue at the Starfire Optical Range at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico. Pentagon budget documents from fiscal years 2004 through 2007 listed antisatellite operations among the goals of the Starfire research, but that language was removed from budget documents in fiscal year 2008 after Congress made inquiries. The Starfire system incorporates adaptive optics that narrow the outgoing laser beam and thus increase the density of its power. That capability is not required for imagery or tracking, further suggesting that Starfire could be used as a weapon.

Yet despite decades of work, battle-ready versions of directed-energy weapons still seem far away. An air force planning document, for instance, predicted in 2003 that a ground-based weapon able to “propagate laser beams through the atmosphere to [stun or kill low Earth orbit] satellites” could be available between 2015 and 2030. Given the current state of research, even those dates seem optimistic.

Co-orbital Satellites
Recent advances in miniaturized sensors, powerful onboard computers and efficient rocket thrusters have made a third kind of antisatellite technology increasingly feasible: the offensive microsatellite. One example that demonstrates the potential is the air force’s experimental satellite series (XSS) project, which is developing microsatellites intended to conduct “autonomous proximity operations” around larger satellites. The first two microsatellites in the program, the XSS-10 and XSS-11, were launched in 2003 and 2005. Though ostensibly intended to inspect larger satellites, such microsatellites could also ram target satellites or carry explosives or directed-energy payloads such as radio-frequency jamming systems or high-powered microwave emitters. Air force budget documents show that the XSS effort is tied to a program called Advanced Weapons Technology, which is dedicated to research on military laser and microwave systems.

During the cold war the Soviet Union developed, tested and even declared operational a co-orbital antisatellite system—a maneuverable interceptor with an explosive payload that was launched by missile into an orbit near a target satellite in low Earth orbit. In effect, the device was a smart “space mine,” but it was last demonstrated in 1982 and is probably no longer working. Today such an interceptor would likely be a microsatellite that could be parked in an orbit that would cross the orbits of several of its potential targets. It could then be activated on command during a close encounter.

In 2005 the air force described a program that would provide “localized” space “situational awareness” and “anomaly characterization” for friendly host satellites in geostationary orbit. The program is dubbed ANGELS (for autonomous nanosatellite guardian for evaluating local space), and the budget line believed to represent it focuses on acquiring “high value space asset defensive capabilities,” including a “warning sensor for detection of a direct ascent or co-orbital vehicle.” It is clear that such guardian nanosatellites could also serve as offensive weapons if they were maneuvered close to enemy satellites.

And the list goes on. A “parasitic satellite” would shadow or even attach itself to a target in geostationary orbit. Farsat, which was mentioned in an appendix to the [Donald] Rumsfeld Space Commission report in 2001, “would be placed in a ‘storage’ orbit (perhaps with many microsatellites housed inside) relatively far from its target but ready to be maneuvered in for a kill.”

Finally, the air force proposed some time ago a space-based radio-frequency weapon system, which “would be a constellation of satellites containing high-power radio-frequency transmitters that possess the capability to disrupt/­destroy/disable a wide variety of electronics and national-level command and control systems.”

Air force planning documents from 2003 envisioned that such a technology would emerge after 2015. But outside experts think that orbital radio-frequency and microwave weapons are technically feasible today and could be deployed in the relatively near future.

Space Bombers
Though not by definition a space weapon, the Pentagon’s Common Aero Vehicle/Hypersonic Technology Vehicle (often called CAV) enters into this discussion because, like an ICBM, it would travel through space to strike Earth-bound targets. An unpowered but highly maneuverable hypersonic glide vehicle, the CAV would be deployed from a future hypersonic space plane, swoop down into the atmosphere from orbit and drop conventional bombs on ground targets. Congress recently began funding the project but, to avoid stoking a potential arms race in space, has prohibited any work to place weapons on the CAV. Although engineers are making steady progress on the key technologies for the CAV program, both the vehicle and its space plane mothership are still likely decades off.

Some of the congressional sensitivity to the design of the CAV may have arisen from another, much more controversial space weapons concept with parallel goals: hypervelocity rod bundles that would be dropped to Earth from orbital platforms. For decades air force planners have been thinking about placing weapons in orbit that could strike terrestrial targets, particularly buried, “hardened” bunkers and caches of weapons of mass destruction. Commonly called “rods from God,” the bundles would be made up of large tungsten rods, each as long as six meters (20 feet) and 30 centimeters (12 inches) across. Each rod would be hurled downward from an orbiting spacecraft and guided to its target at tremendous speed.

Both high costs and the laws of physics, however, challenge their feasibility. Ensuring that the projectiles do not burn up or deform from reentry friction while sustaining a precise, nearly vertical flight path would be extremely difficult. Calculations indicate that the nonexplosive rods would probably be no more effective than more conventional munitions. Furthermore, the expense of lofting the heavy projectiles into orbit would be exorbitant. Thus, despite continued interest in them, rods from God seem to fall into the realm of science fiction.

Obstacles to Space Weapons
What, then, is holding the U.S. (and other nations) back from a full-bore pursuit of space weapons? The countervailing pressures are threefold: political opposition, technological challenges and high costs.

The American body politic is deeply divided over the wisdom of making space warfare a part of the national military strategy. The risks are manifold. I remarked earlier on the general instabilities of an arms race, but there is a further issue of stability among the nuclear powers. Early-warning and spy satellites have traditionally played a crucial role in reducing fears of a surprise nuclear attack. But if antisatellite weapons disabled those eyes-in-the-sky, the resulting uncertainty and distrust could rapidly lead to catastrophe.

One of the most serious technological challenges posed by space weapons is the proliferation of space debris, to which I alluded earlier. According to investigators at the air force, NASA and Celestrak (an independent space-monitoring Web site), the Chinese antisatellite test left more than 2,000 pieces of junk, baseball-size and larger, orbiting the globe in a cloud that lies between about 200 kilometers (125 miles) and 4,000 kilometers (2,500 miles) above Earth’s surface. Perhaps another 150,000 objects that are a centimeter (half an inch) across and larger were released. High orbital velocities make even tiny pieces of space junk dangerous to spacecraft of all kinds. And ground stations cannot reliably monitor or track objects smaller than about five centimeters (two inches) across in low Earth orbit (around a meter in geostationary orbit), a capability that might enable satellites to maneuver out of the way. To avoid being damaged by the Chinese space debris, in fact, two U.S. satellites had to alter course. Any shooting war in space would raise the specter of a polluted space environment no longer navigable by Earth-orbiting satellites.

Basing weapons in orbit also pre­sents difficult technical obstacles. They would be just as vulnerable as satellites are to all kinds of outside agents: space debris, projectiles, electromagnetic signals, even natural micrometeoroids. Shielding space weapons against such threats would also be impractical, mostly because shielding is bulky and adds mass, thereby greatly increasing launch costs. Orbital weapons would be mostly autonomous mechanisms, which would make operational errors and failures likely. The paths of objects in orbit are relatively easy to predict, which would make hiding large weapons problematic. And because satellites in low Earth orbit are overhead for only a few minutes at a time, keeping one of them constantly in range would require many weapons.

Finally, getting into space and operating there is extremely expensive: between $2,000 and $10,000 a pound to reach low Earth orbit and between $15,000 and $20,000 a pound for geostationary orbit. Each space-based weapon would require replacement every seven to 15 years, and in-orbit repairs would not be cheap, either.

Alternatives to Space Warfare
Given the risks of space warfare to national and international security, as well as the technical and financial hurdles that must be overcome, it would seem only prudent for spacefaring nations to find ways to prevent an arms race in space. The U.S. focus has been to reduce the vulnerability of its satellite fleet and explore alternatives to its dependence on satellite services. Most other space-capable countries are instead seeking multilateral diplomatic and legal measures. The options range from treaties that would ban antisatellite and space-based weapons to voluntary measures that would help build transparency and mutual confidence.

The Bush administration has adamantly opposed any form of negotiations regarding space weapons. Opponents of multilateral space weapons agreements contend that others (particularly China) will sign up but build secret arsenals at the same time, because such treaty violations cannot be detected. They argue further that the U.S. cannot sit idly as potential adversaries gain spaceborne resources that could enhance their terrestrial combat capabilities.

Proponents of international treaties counter that failure to negotiate such agreements entails real opportunity costs. An arms race in space may end up compromising the security of all nations, including that of the U.S., while it stretches the economic capacities of the competitors to the breaking point. And whereas many advocates of a space weapons ban concede that it will be difficult to construct a fully verifiable treaty—because space technology can be used for both military and civilian ends—effective treaties already exist that do not require strict verification. A good example is the Biological Weapons Convention. Certainly a prohibition on the testing and use (as opposed to the deployment) of the most dangerous class of near-term space weapons—destructive (as opposed to jamming) antisatellite systems—would be easily verifiable, because earthbound observers can readily detect orbital debris. Furthermore, any party to a treaty would know that all its space launches would be tracked from the ground, and any suspicious object in orbit would promptly be labeled as such. The international outcry that would ensue from such overt treaty violations could deter would-be violators.

Since the mid-1990s, however, progress on establishing a new multilateral space regime has lagged. The U.S. has blocked efforts at the United Nations Conference on Disarmament in Geneva to begin negotiations on a treaty to ban space weapons. China, meanwhile, has refused to accept anything less. Hence, intermediate measures such as voluntary confidence-building, space traffic control or a code of responsible conduct for spacefaring nations have remained stalled.

Space warfare is not inevitable. But the recent policy shift in the U.S. and China’s provocative actions have highlighted the fact that the world is approaching a crossroads. Countries must come to grips with their strong self-interest in preventing the testing and use of orbital weapons. The nations of Earth must soon decide whether it is possible to sustain the predominantly peaceful human space exploration that has already lasted half a century. The likely alternative would be unacceptable to all.