P.O. Box 190, Mount Holly, Virginia 2252
Volume 39, Number 1, Jerry Strope, Editor

Welcome to the quarterly version of the venerable ASDA Newsletter, house organ of the equally venerable American Strategic Defense Association. When we began in 1970, our newsletter was published every month, carrying reports of the doings of the anti-defense org-du-jour and providing the membership with the latest research on nuclear defense is-sues with emphasis on correcting the lies and exaggerations of the anti-defenders. Our membership grew by word of mouth about equally among those doing civil defense research, those engaged in program planning, and civil defenders at the State and local level of government.

We were never more than two hundred in membership and when the Soviet Union collapsed at the end of the 1980s, our reason-to-be seemed to collapse with it. The ASDA Newsletter became a bimonthly. We organized votes on terminating the organization but the motion to terminate has always failed. The membership did not want to quit. Those who organized in chapters seemed to be happy with the excuse to get together periodically with others with a common interest. Those unaffiliated with a chapter seemed to use the Newsletter as a connector to efforts of the past. But age and lack of urgency have caused most ASDA chapters to melt away. The ones in Denver, Oak Ridge, and Phoenix melted away early on. Bob Black is practically the lone survivor of the Carl Miller Chapter in Palo Alto. Three chapters in the Washington area still exist but now they lunch together bimonthly. Nonetheless, when I have raised the issue, these people are still not ready to quit. I’m not really ready either, but I’m 91 years old, so unless some eager soul volunteers, this may be the last year for the ASDA Newsletter.

Since we have a new quarterly newsletter, I have decided to discard the old format: no more columns; no more quotable quote; altogether a less formal approach. As to content, however, I propose to focus even more narrowly on nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation than I have in the past. After all, the Cold War really is over. I mean no one believes that an all-out nuclear war between the US and Russia is possible any more even though each nation has thousands of nuclear weapons on the ready on land and at sea. The superpower confrontation is over. Instead, we have the following:

On Wednesday, April 1, 2009, the White House released a joint statement by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and US President Barack Obama: We are resolved to work together to strengthen strategic stability, international security, and jointly meet contemporary global challenges, while also addressing disagreements openly and honestly in a spirit of mutual respect and acknowledgement of each others perspective. . . We will deepen cooperation to combat nuclear terrorism. We will seek to further promote the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, . . . We also support international negotiations for a verifiable treaty to end the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons. . . and we seek to continue bilateral collaboration to improve and sustain nuclear security.

Doesn’t sound threatening, does it? On the other hand, nearly everyone, including the new Obama administration, believes that nuclear proliferation—the spread of nuclear weapons, nuclear weapon technology, and weapon delivery systems to more and more nations—is the most dangerous activity facing us today. Accordingly, the ASDA News-letter has been reporting developments in this activity since the 1990s. During this period, India and Pakistan have become nuclear nations, Iraq and Libya have gone non-nuclear, and Iran, North Korea, and Syria are at the center of the nuclear proliferation activity.

Iran: The dance between the Obama  administration and Iran has begun, according to Borzon Daragahi in the Los Angeles Times. During his campaign, Barack Obama promised to reach out to Iran and at a news conference in mid-February he said he “will be looking for openings” with Iran that “will allow us to move our policy” in a new direction. The next day, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that he would “welcome genuine changes” in US policy, especially if Obama is serious about treating Iran with respect. “The Iranian nation,” Ahmadinejad said, “is prepared to talk.”

If the two nations do meet at a negotiating table, said Trudy Rubin in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Iran’s uranium enrichment program will be a central topic, since the US remains convinced that its ultimate goal is a nuclear bomb. Would Tehran really surrender its nuclear program—and its Great Satan ideology—for greater involvement with the US and the world community? It just might, writes Michael Ledeen in The Wall Street Journal. Iran is not in a position of strength. The plunge in oil prices has rocked its weak economy and many Iranians regard the theocratic regime with contempt as the pres-idential election approaches in June.

Iranians also have seen what conflict and war have done to Iraq and Afghanistan, said Roger Cohen in The New York Times. On the streets of Tehran, people say they want “money, education, and opportunity,” not a violent ideological conflict with the US. “Who needs that?” they say. A genuine outreach by Obama, not accompanied by demands that the uranium enrichment cease immediately would be “shrewd.” If Iranians are given an alternative to their current desperation that preserves “Persian pride,” who knows? They just might take it.

We’ve heard all this before, writes Michael Rubin in The Weekly Standard. To know how this latest gambit will play out, just retrace the path of Jimmie Carter. He made similar overtures to Iran’s mullahs and they made a monkey out of him, taking 52 Americans hostage. After 30 years in power, Iran’s leaders are more intractable than ever. And they will respond to “every feeler” from Obama with ever “more intrusive demands.” Indeed, nothing would better serve their propaganda than an “outstretched hand” from a naïve US president. If Obama thinks the problem with Iran originated with his predecessor in the White House—instead of Tehran—he will surely get “burned.”

In February, The Washington Post published an interview by Lally Waymouth with Mohamed ElBaradei, Director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Here are pertinent excerpts: I have been counseling privately and publicly  that. . . you’re not going to have trust unless you have a direct dialogue. President Obama is saying he’s ready to have a direct dialogue without preconditions, based on mutual respect. I say this is absolutely overdue. I have no question that President Obama is doing the right thing. This was the missing part of the puzzle. . . Regional security issues, particularly in the Middle East, will not move one iota until you sit around the table and discuss the grievances that have accumulated over the last 56 years between Iran and the international community. . . This is the past, but the present is fundamentally a competition of power between Iran, which has its own specific ideology, and the United States and some of Iran’s neighbors.

Iranians see that if you have the technology that can allow you to develop a nuclear weapon in a short period of time, it gives you power, prestige and security. So it’s a security issue [relating to] how great a role Iran will have as a regional power, the grievances the West has vis-à-vis Iran about alleged Iranian support for extremist groups, about its human rights record. All these are legitimate issues, but these issues are not going to be resolved by calling each other names across the ocean. When you call Iran [part of] an “axis of evil,” you do not expect them to say, “Well,we will give up our nuclear program.” Obviously,they look for their own security, and they have seen that if you have nuclear weapons or at least the technology, you are somehow protected from attack . . Obama’s change of page is absolutely, in my view, the way to go.

The foregoing is forthright. Maybe Obama, if he takes this tack, can get the Iranians to stop calling the US “The Great Satan.” In addition to opinions of this sort, Director ElBaradei provided his interviewer some facts about Iran’s nuclear program. The product of the Iranian uranium enrichment effort is low-enriched uranium suitable for use in a nuclear power plant and the IAEA knows how much Iran has produced because the facilities are under routine inspection. “The concern about Iran . . . is that if Iran were to develop the technology, they’d walk out of the Nuclear Non=Proliferation Treaty, they’d develop highly enriched uranium and the weapon,” Which brings us to strategic defense and to the missile defense batteries being planned for deployment in Poland and the Czech Republic to protect against missiles from Iran. Russia is furious about the proposed location of the ballistic missile defenses so close to its borders. In the midst of the uproar over North Korea’s plans to test a long-range missile, hardly anyone noticed that Iran launched a satellite into orbit on February 9 or 10. The launching rocket was built in Iran. “It is certainly a reason for us to be concerned about Iran and its continued attempts to develop a ballistic missile program of increasingly long range,” said Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell. Iranian President Ahmadinejad dismissed these fears, saying that the Omid satellite carried a message of  “peace and brotherhood” to the world. “We have a divine view of technology,” he said, “unlike the dominating powers of the world, who have satanic views.” To these reassuring words, our new Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, speaking from Beijing while on her first Asian tour, replied that the US would be willing to reconsider the deployment of missile defenses in eastern Europe if Iran were to cease its uranium enrichment program. This, presumably, was said with a straight face. In any event, her statement failed to assure either Iran or Russia and caused uncertainty in eastern Europe and the major media as to whether the Obama administration was going to change the policy. The leadership of Poland and the Czech Republic have gone out on the limb, so to speak, to execute agreements with the US to host the batteries.

North Korea: Last year, North Korea agreed in principle to dismantle its nuclear weapons programs in return for aid and diplomatic benefits but it still refuses to accept a verification plan. Meanwhile, the dismantling of its nuclear facility has halted. 

In early February, North Korea announced that it was canceling a non-aggression pact and all other peace agreements with South Korea. It also moved a long-range missile said to be capable of delivering a nuclear warhead into position for a possible test launch. “Relations between the North and the South have worsened to the point where there is no way or hope of correcting them,” said the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea, a North Korean agency in charge of relations with the South. South Korean analysts viewed the bellicose actions as an attempt to get the attention of President Obama, who has appointed special envoys for Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Middle East but not North Korea.

Speaking from Tokyo during her Asian trip, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned North Korea not to follow through on its threats to launch a test missile. “We are watching very closely,” she said. Just a day after her remarks, the official Central News Agency said that Washington had threatened North Korea and would face “destruction” if it attacked. North Korea “has not made a concession despite threat and blackmail from the US nor will it make one in the future,” the North Korean news agency said.

In early March, Japan threatened to shoot down any North Korean missile that flies over its territory. North Korea has been saying that it is set to “launch a communications satellite,” but analysts say it’s just a cloak to cover the testing of a long-range Taepodong-2 three-stage missile which the North claims can carry a nuclear warhead as far as Alaska. Japan’s Kyodo News Agency reported that Japan was sending two destroyers equipped with the Aegis ballistic missile defense system into the Sea of Japan in anticipation of the launch. However, by mid-March it was clear that the missile launch was scheduled for the first week of April.

 In late March, North Korea reacted to the international pressure against its planned missile launch in its usual weird way by rejecting shipments of US food aid despite its chronic food shortage. As part of a 2008 aid agreement, the US has delivered 169,000 metric tons of food to North Korea but the latest shipment was refused. “We’re obviously disappointed,” said State Dept spokesman Robert Wood. “Clearly, this is food assistance that the North Korean people need.” While Pyongyang gave no reason for refusing the aid, it probably was responding not only to international pressure but also to the warning from the Obama administration  that a rocket launch would bring US sanctions. North Korea routinely confiscates farmers’ produce and gives it to the military, leaving markets empty and the people starving. A famine in the 1990s killed an estimated 2 million people—10 percent of the population.

During this first quarter of 2009 the pages of magazines and newspapers have been filled with articles about the new Obama administration, the failing economy and stimulus spending but little analysis bearing on strategic defense. I found two articles of some interest, both in The Weekly Standard and both about North Korea. The first of these is What Went Wrong? by Nicholas Eberstadt, published in the January 26 issue. Mr. Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute points out that on the George W. Bush watch North Korea not only publicly declared itself to be a nuclear power, but set off a device to prove it. “No less dismaying, there are fewer genuine constraints against further North Korean nuclear proliferation in place today than at Bush’s first inauguration.” The author goes on to list other failures and then sums up the reasons the Obama campaign has given for the Bush sorry record. He then demolishes those reasons as nearly counter to what really happened.

For example, one Obama belief has been that the Bush team had an “aversion to negotiation with distasteful adversaries.” Eberstadt argues that in the absence of  “a coherent policy” the imperative of success in talks with North Korea suddenly took on a life of its own. In his words, “Pyongyang depends on counterfeiting, drug-running, and other such sources of income to prop up its shaky state finances. Thanks to careful and persistent interagency detective work, American officials began to track these down in the Bush years. When this work prompted Macau’s Banko Delta Asia to freeze over $20 million in suspect North Korean assets, North Korean officials howled—and warned they would not return to the nuclear bargaining table until they got their bag-money back. The strategically inclined would have realized we had found a pressure point—and would have squeezed all the harder, to extract concessions. But our State Department envoys fought tooth and nail against our Treasury officials to free their negotiating partners from this economic chokehold” and, with Bush’s backing, won. Eberstadt’s view is that the six-nation negotiations came to no good end because they had become divorced from any underlying strategy. A more satisfying conclusion is that the negotiations hung up when North Korea refused to accept an intrusive verification plan and the underlying strategy of a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula demanded it.

The second article I found is much less pretentious than the Eberstadt essay. It is titled The Insubordinate Ambassador by Stephen F. Hayes, a senior writer on The Weekly Standard. It chronicles the actions of Christopher Hill while he was chief negotiator for the State Department at the six-nation talks on Korean denuclearization. The Bush policy was to make any agreements with North Korea written agreements with all the participants. Bilateral negotiations were a no-no but Hill flouted this restriction. As Hayes says, “Think about that. The secretary of state expressly forbade Hill from participating in bilateral talks. The president of the US was on record opposing bilateral negotiations. Hill thought he knew better. Meanwhile, North Korea was on the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terror, they had just weeks earlier tested a nuclear device, and we now know, at the very time Hill was conducting his rogue diplomacy, North Korea was supplying nuclear technology to Syria—another nation on the State Department’s list of terror sponsors.” The occasion for this publicity in late March was that Chris Hill, a veteran of the Foreign Service, is Barack Obama’s nominee to be ambassador to Iraq.

In attacking Chris Hill, Stephen Hayes quotes from a recent book, “Meltdown:The Inside Story of the North Korean Nuclear Crisis” by former CNN reporter Mike Chinoy, which may be joined by others as the consequence of North Korea’s latest temper tantrum.