Nuclear Mangos

This blog is intended to provide reliable technical analysis of nuclear issues with non-state actors and nuclear beginner states. Some technical issues have important policy implications that citizens in a democracy should be able to make informed decisions about. The motivation for the blog has been the incredible amount of lies & hyperbole on the Iran situation of early 2006. The blog title is to remind you constantly of the quality of minds in charge of our nuclear security today.

Location: MA

Until recently I was a physics professor at Harvard, where I taught the nuclear and particle physics course, among others. I've recently left that position to work as an R&D physicist in security applications. I have never done classified weapons work.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

My Mood...

At that moment a shadow fell over them. The bright moonlight seemed to be suddenly cut off. Several of the Riders cried out, and crouched, holding their arms above their heads, as if to ward off a blow from above: a blind fear and a deadly cold fell on them. Cowering they looked up. A vast winged shape passed over the moon like a black cloud. It wheeled and went north, flying at a speed greater than any wind of Middle-earth. The stars fainted before it. It was gone.

They stood up, rigid as stones. Gandalf was gazing up, his arms out and downwards, stiff, his hands clenched.

"Nazgûl!" he cried. "The messenger of Mordor. The storm is coming. The Nazgûl have crossed the River! Ride, ride! Wait not for the dawn! Let not the swift wait for the slow! Ride!"

Roger That

Yesterday I wrote that the Democratic leadership had just signaled to Republicans their willingness to roll over on any matter of national security--including and particularly Iran--between now and November.

Message received, Captain

Friday, June 20, 2008

FISA and Iran

Although it's probably not hard to guess where I stand on the FISA issue, the actual policy issues of that debate are irrelevant to what I realized after the House passed the FISA bill this afternoon. Let's see what is being said about the Democrats' thinking:

The New York Times:

The proposal — particularly the immunity provision — represents a major victory for the White House after months of dispute.

“I think the White House got a better deal than even they had hoped to get,” said Senator Bond, Republican of Missouri, who led the negotiations.

The Washington Post:

...the negotiations underscored the political calculation made by many Democrats who were fearful that Republicans would cast them as soft on terrorism during an election year.
Via Rawstory:
"Watching the House fall to scare tactics and political maneuvering is especially infuriating given the way it stood up to pressure from the president on this same issue just months ago," Fredrickson said. "In March we thought the House leadership had finally grown a backbone by rejecting the Senate’s FISA bill. Now we know they will not stand up for the Constitution."

A Kerry Senate Staffer, 9/06, to a group of constituents including myself:
Everyone is caving on the MCA because everyone is afraid of becoming Max Cleland.

My (Democratic, true-blue) Congressman's Veteran Staffer (rough quote), today
You can expect it to be a recurring issue up to the election that Democrats will be trying to avoid being painted as "soft"

Set aside the FISA policy and legislation. I want to get at the clear contextual picture emerging here:

Democrats will roll over for the Republicans on anything related to national security, so they can avoid having a fight about it before November.

Any group in the White House who is eager to attack Iran, I feel confident, took exactly this message away from today's FISA vote.

I have no reason to think that the Democratic leadership will resist the "we must attack Iran" campaign that that group is now planning.

Four Stories

There have been four stories of real import over the last several weeks with respect to Iran. I hope to come back to two of them for dissection, but in the meantime, let me simply read them into the record:

When the Iran NIE was released last year, I thought it was the absolute fatal death blow for those who were pushing for an attack on Iran. I could not conceive how political will could be mustered for an attack in the face of that NIE. As you have noticed, the personal urgency I felt about it dropped low enough that with two young children, I largely stopped posting on the topic.

As I will explain in my next post: I was wrong. (CKR, sadly, was right.)