Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Better Nukes for a Safer Planet

A lot of people seem to have lost the thread when it comes to nuclear weapons. They think that nuclear weapons are like other weapons, and are designed to be used in war. But this is pure mental inertia. According to all the evidence available, nuclear weapons are anti-weapons, designed to prevent weapons, nuclear or otherwise, from being used. In essence, if used correctly, nuclear weapons are war suppression devices. Of course, if used incorrectly, they pose a grave risk to all life on Earth. There are other risks to all life on Earth as well, such as runaway global warming from unconstrained burning of hydrocarbons; perhaps we need to invent a weapon or two to prevent that as well.

Some people feel that the mere existence of nuclear weapons guarantees that they will be used as various nuclear-armed countries find themselves financially, economically and politically in extremis. As “proof” of this, they trot out the dramaturgical principle of Chekhov’s Gun. Anton Chekhov wrote: “Если вы говорите в первой главе, что на стене висит ружье, во второй или третьей главе оно должно непременно выстрелить. А если не будет стрелять, не должно и висеть.»” [“If you say in Act I that there is a gun hanging on the wall, then it is a must that in Act II or III it be fired. And if it won’t be fired, it shouldn’t have been hung there in the first place.”]

And if you point out that we are talking about military strategy and geopolitics, not theater, they then quote Shakespeare’s “All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances…” and believe that it is QED. Now, I happen to agree wholeheartedly with Chekhov, when it comes to dramaturgy, and I agree with the Bard as well, provided we define “the world” as “the world of theater,” from which the worlds of geopolitics and nuclear physics are both dramatically different.

Let me explain it in terms that a drama major would understand. If there is a nuclear bomb hanging on the wall in Act I, then, chances are, it will still be hanging on that wall during the final curtain call. In the meantime, no matter how many other weapons are present on stage during the play, you can be sure that none of them would be used. Or maybe they will be, but then the entire audience would be dead, in which case you should definitely ask for your money back because this was billed as a family-friendly show.

Back in the real world, it is hard to argue that nukes haven’t been useful as deterrents against both conventional and nuclear war. When the Americans dropped nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, they only did this because they could do so with complete impunity. Had Japan, or an ally of Japan, possessed nuclear weapons at the time, these attacks would not have taken place. There is a considerable body of opinion that the Americans didn’t nuke Japan in order to secure a victory (the Japanese would have surrendered regardless) but to send a message to Joseph Stalin. Stalin got the message, and Soviet scientists and engineers got cracking.

There was an uncomfortable period, before the USSR successfully tested their first atomic bomb, when the Americans were seriously planning to destroy all major Soviet cities using a nuclear strike, but they set these plans aside because they calculated that they didn’t have enough nukes at the time to keep the Red Army from conquering all of Western Europe in retaliation. But in August 29, 1949, when the USSR tested its first atomic bomb, these plans were set aside—not quite permanently, it would later turn out—because even a singular nuclear detonation as a result of a Soviet response to an American first strike, wiping out, say, New York or Washington, would have been too high a price to pay for destroying Russia.

Since then—continuously except for a period between 2002 and two days ago—the ability of nuclear weapons to deter military aggression has remained unquestioned. There were some challenges along the way, but they were dealt with. The Americans saw it fit to threaten the USSR by placing nuclear missiles in Turkey; in response, the USSR placed nuclear missiles in Cuba. The Americans didn’t think that was fair, and the result was the Cuban Missile Crisis. Eventually the Americans were prevailed upon to stand down in Turkey, and the Soviets stood down in Cuba. Another threat to the deterrent power of nuclear weapons was the development of anti-ballistic weapons that could shoot down nuclear-tipped missiles (just the ballistic ones; more on that later). But this was widely recognized to be a bad thing, and a major breakthrough came in 1972, when the USA and the USSR signed the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

Over this entire period, the principle that kept the peace was Mutual Assured Destruction: neither side would provoke the other to the point of launching a nuclear strike, because such a move was guaranteed to be suicidal. The two sides were reduced to fighting a series of proxy wars in various countries around the world, which were so much the worse for it, but there was no danger of these proxy conflicts erupting into a full-scale nuclear conflagration.

In the meantime, everybody tried to oppose nuclear proliferation, preventing more countries from obtaining access to nuclear weapons technology—with limited success. The cases where these efforts failed testify to the effective deterrent value of nuclear weapons. Saddam Hussein of Iraq didn’t have any “weapons of mass destruction” and ended up hung. Muammar Qaddafi of Libya voluntarily gave up his nuclear program, and ended up tortured to death.

But Pakistan managed to acquire nuclear weapons, and as a result its relations with its traditional nemesis India have become much more polite and cooperative, to the point that in June of 2017 both became full members of Shanghai Cooperation Organization, along with China, Russia and other Eurasian nations. And then North Korea has made some breakthroughs with regard to nuclear bombs and ballistic missiles, and as a result of that the US has been reduced to posturing and futile threats against it while South Korea has expressed some newfound respect for its northern neighbor and is now seeking rapprochement.

In 2002 the prospect of continued nuclear deterrence suffered a major setback when the US pulled out of the ABM treaty. Russia protested this move, and promised an asymmetrical response. American officials ignored this protest, incorrectly thinking that Russia was finished as a nuclear power. Since then, the Americans spent prodigious amounts of money—well into the trillions of dollars—building a ballistic missile defense system. Their goal was simple: make it possible to launch a first strike on Russia, destroying much of its nuclear arsenal; then use the new American ABM systems to destroy whatever Russia does manage to launch in response. On February 2, 2018 the Americans decided that they were ready, and issued a Nuclear Posture Review in which they explicitly reserved the right to use nuclear weapons to prevent Russia from using its nuclear deterrent.

And then, two days ago, all of that came to a happy end when Vladimir Putin gave a speech in which he unveiled several new weapons systems that completely negate the value of US missile defense shield—among other things. That was the response the Russians promised to deliver when the US pulled out of the ABM treaty in 2002. Now, 16 years later, they are done. Russia has rearmed with new weapons that have rendered the ABM treaty entirely irrelevant.

The ABM treaty was about ballistic missiles—ones that are propelled by rockets that boost the missile to close to escape velocity. After that the missile follows a ballistic trajectory—just like an artillery shell or a bullet. That makes its path easy to calculate and the missile easy to intercept. The US missile defense systems rely on the ability to see the missile on radar, calculate its position, direction and velocity, and to launch a missile in response in such a way that the two trajectories intersect. When they cross, the interceptor missile is detonated, knocking out the attacking missile.

None of the new Russian weapons follow ballistic trajectories. The new Sarmat is an ICBM minus the “B”—it maneuvers throughout its flight path and can fly through the atmosphere rather than popping up above it. It has a short boost phase, making it difficult to intercept after launch. It has the range to fly arbitrary paths around the planet—over the south pole, for instance—to reach any point on Earth. And it carries multiple maneuverable hypersonic nuclear-armed reentry vehicles which no existing or planned missile defense system can intercept.

Among other new weapons unveiled two days ago was a nuclear-powered cruise missile which has virtually unlimited range and a nuclear-powered drone submarine which can descend to much larger depths than any existing submarine and moves faster than any existing vessel. There was also a mobile laser cannon in the show, of which very little is known, but they are likely to come in handy when it comes to frying military satellites. All of these are based on physical principles that have never been used before. All of these have passed testing and are going into production; one of them is already being used on active combat duty in the Russian armed forces.

The Russians are now duly proud of their scientists, engineers and soldiers. Their country is safe again; Americans have been stopped in their tracks, their new Nuclear Posture now looking like a severe case of lordosis. This sort of pride is more important than it would seem. Advanced nuclear weapons systems are a bit like secondary sexual characteristics of animals: like the peacock’s tail or the deer’s antlers or the lion’s mane, they are indicative of the health and vigor of a specimen that has plenty of spare energy to expend on showy accessories.

In order to be able to field a hypersonic nuclear-powered cruise missile with unlimited range, a country has to have a healthy scientific community, lots of high-powered engineers, a highly trained professional military and a competent security establishment that can keep the whole thing secret, along with an industrial economy powerful and diverse enough to supply all of the necessary materials, processes and components with zero reliance on imports. Now that the arms race is over, this new confidence and competence can be turned to civilian purposes.

So far, the Western reaction to Putin’s speech has closely followed the illogic of dreams which Sigmund Freud explained using the following joke:

1. I never borrowed a kettle from you
2. I returned it to you unbroken
3. It was already broken when I borrowed it from you.

A more common example is a child’s excuse for not having done her homework: I lost it; my dog ate it; I didn’t know it was assigned.

In this case, Western commentators have offered us the following:

1. There are no such weapons; Putin is bluffing
2. These weapons exist but they don’t really work
3. These weapons work and this is the beginning of a new nuclear arms race

Taking these one at a time:

1. Putin is not known to bluff; he is known for doing exactly what he says he will do. He announced that Russia will deliver an asymmetric response to the US pulling out of the ABM treaty; and now it has.

2. These weapons are a continuation of developments that already existed in the USSR 30 years ago but had been mothballed until 2002. What has changed since then was the development of new materials, which make it possible to build vehicles that fly at above Mach 10, with their skin heating up to 2000ºC, and, of course, dramatic improvements in microelectronics, communications and artificial intelligence. Putin’s statement that the new weapons systems are going into production is an order: they are going into production.

3. Most of Putin’s speech wasn’t about military matters at all. It was about such things as pay increases, roads, hospitals and clinics, kindergartens, nurseries, boosting retirements, providing housing to young families, streamlining the regulation of small businesses, etc. That is the focus of the Russian government for the next six years: dramatically improving the standard of living of the population. The military problem has already been resolved, the arms race has been won, and Russia’s defense budget is being reduced, not increased.

Another line of thought in the West was that Putin unveiled these new weapons, which have been in development for 16 years at least, as part of his reelection campaign (the vote is on March 18). This is absurd. Putin is assured of victory because the vast majority of Russians approve of his leadership. The elections have been about jockeying for a second place position between the Liberal Democrats, led by the old war horse Vladimir Zhirinovsky, and the Communists, who have nominated a non-communist oligarch businessman Pavel Grudinin, who has promptly disqualified himself by failing to disclose foreign bank accounts and other improprieties and now appears to have gone into hiding. Thus, the Communists, who were previously slated for second place, have burned themselves down and Zhirinovsky will probably come in second. If Americans don’t like Putin, then they definitely wouldn’t like Zhirinovsky. Putin is practical and ambivalent about “our Western partners,” as he likes to call them. Zhirinovsky, on the other hand, is rather revenge-minded, and seems to want to inflict pain on them.

At the same time, there is now a committee, composed of very serious-looking men and women, who are charged with monitoring and thwarting American meddling in Russian politics. It seems unlikely that the CIA, the US State Department and the usual culprits will be able to get away with much in Russia. The age of color revolutions is over, and the regime change train has sailed… all the way back to Washington, where Trump stands a chance of getting dethroned Ukrainian-style.

Another way to look at the Western reaction to Russia’s new weapons is using Elizabeth Kübler-Ross’s stages of grief. We already saw denial (Putin is bluffing; weapons don't work) and the start of anger (new arms race). We should expect a bit more anger before moving on to bargaining (you can have the Ukraine if you stop building Sarmat). Once the response comes back (“You broke the Ukraine; you pay to get it fixed”) we move on to depression (“The Russians just don’t love us any more!”) and, finally, acceptance. Once the stage of acceptance is reached, here is what the Americans can usefully do in response to Russia’s new weapons systems.

First of all, Americans can scrap their ABM systems because they are now useless. Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu had this to say about it: «То, что сегодня создаётся в Польше и Румынии, создаётся на Аляске и предполагается к созданию в Южной Корее и Японии — этот "зонтик" противоракетной обороны, получается, "дырявый". И не знаю, зачем за такие деньги теперь этот "зонтик" им приобретать.» [“What is being built in Poland and Romania, and in Alaska, and is planned in South Korea and Japan—this missile defense ‘umbrella’—turns out to be riddled with holes. I don’t know why they should now buy this ‘umbrella’ for so much money.”]

Secondly, Americans can scrap their aircraft carrier fleet. All it’s useful now for now is threatening defenseless nations, but there are much cheaper ways to threaten defenseless nations. If Americans are still planning to use them to dominate sea lanes and control world trade, then the existence of hypersonic cruise missiles with unlimited range and drone submarines that can lurk at great ocean depths for years make the world’s oceans off-limits for American navy’s battle groups in the event of any major (non-nuclear) escalation because now Russia can destroy them from an arbitrary distance without putting any of their assets or personnel at risk.

Lastly, Americans can pull out of NATO, which has now been shown to be completely useless, dismantle their thousand military bases around the world, and repatriate the troops stationed there. It’s not as if, in light of these new developments, American security guarantees are going to be worth much to anyone, and America’s “allies” will be quick to realize that. As far as Russian security guarantees, there is a lot on offer: unlike the US, which is increasingly seen as a rogue state—and an ineffectual and blundering one at that—Russia has been scrupulous in adhering to its international agreements and international law. In developing and deploying its new weapons systems, Russia has not violated any international agreements, treaties or laws. And Russia has no aggressive plans towards anyone except terrorists. As Putin put it during his speech, «Мы ни на кого не собираемся нападать и что-то отнимать. У нас у самих всё есть.» [“We are not planning to attack anyone or take over anywhere. We have everything we need.”]

I hope that the US doesn’t plan to attack anyone either, because, given its recent history, this won’t work. Threatening the whole planet and forcing it to use the US dollar in international trade (and destroying countries, such as Iraq and Libya, when they refuse); running huge trade deficits with virtually the entire world and forcing reserve banks around the world to buy up US government debt; leveraging that debt to run up colossal budget deficits (now around a trillion dollars a year); and robbing the entire planet by printing money and spending it on various corrupt schemes—that, my friends, has been America’s business plan since around the 1970s. And it is unraveling before our eyes.

I have the audacity to hope that the dismantling of the American Empire will proceed as copacetically as the dismantling of the Soviet Empire did. (This is not to say that it won’t be humiliating or impoverishing, or that it won’t be accompanied by a huge increase in morbidity and mortality.) One of my greatest fears over the past decade was that Russia wouldn’t take the US and NATO seriously enough and just try to wait them out. After all, what is there to really to fear from a nation that has over a 100 trillion dollars in unfunded entitlements, that’s full of opioid addicts, with 100 million working-age people permanently out of work, with decrepit infrastructure and poisoned national politics? And as far as NATO, there is, of course, Germany, which is busy rewriting “Deutschland, Deutschland, über alles” to be gender-neutral. What are they supposed to do next? March on Moscow under a rainbow banner and hope that the Russians die laughing? Oh, and there’s also NATO’s largest Eurasian asset, Turkey, which is currently busy slaughtering America’s Kurdish assets in Northern Syria.

But simply waiting them out would have been a gamble, because in its death throes the American Empire could have lashed out in unpredictable ways. I am glad that Russia chose not to gamble with its national security. Now that the US has been safely checkmated using the new Russian weapons systems, I feel that the world is in a much better place. If you like peace, then it seems like your best option is to also like nukes—the best ones possible, ones against which no deterrent exists, and wielded by peaceful, law-abiding nations that have no evil designs on the rest of the planet.

41 comments :

John Meyers said...

Very good read, thank you.

JustTruth said...

Thank goodness Russia has had Putin as a leader. We are all safer for it.

Rhisiart Gwilym said...

Just left this comment on a favourite website:

http://members5.boardhost.com/xxxxx/msg/1520353267.html

SELFQUOTE:

Dmitry Orlov: 'Better Nukes For A Safer Planet' (Complete, no paywall) -

Posted by Rhisiart Gwilym on March 6, 2018, 4:21 pm

I'm chuffed to see that I seem to be on the same page as Dmitry, regarding nuclear MADness. Seems that we're both feeling a lot more cheerful about the -reducing - prospects for nuclear war, since Dydd Gŵyl Dewi - St. David's Day - 1March.

As I posted earlier today, I'm really quite surprised that no-one on the Lifeboat, apart from me, seems to have picked up on the epoch-changing thing that's just happened with VVPutin's 'State of the Nation' speech last Tuesday. Is the crew losing its edge...? In a nutshell, the malign (but regrettably necessary) balance of MAD has just been announced to have been restored by sixteen years of steady, impressively-focussed, Putin-overseen Russian determination to do just that - asymmetrically, at a fraction of the USukiznato-axis's militarism budget.

Already, as well as the predictable, know-nothing yapping of the power-steno hacks of the West's Permanent Bullshit Blizzard, aka the Western lamestream 'news' media, a number of thoughtful and informed commentators have drawn out the implications of this news. Yet no-one amongst the Western cyber-chatterati is saying all that much about it. Very odd, given what a - perverse - relief it is. Maybe the implications will trickle in to our collective understanding in the West slowly over the next little while; starting with the saner people in the Pentagon, we have to hope...

http://cluborlov.blogspot.co.uk/2018/03/better-nukes-for-safer-planet.html

UNQUOTE

Trmist said...

I’ve notice more frequent references to the Perrodollar and its role underpinning the US dominated world in geopolitical analysis. I’m certain powerful rivals to the USA are well aware of the dollar’s role in providing US with a massive economic subsidy. I can’t help feeling the time is fast approaching when the US dollar will be severely devalued.

K Satifka said...

Such a great article written with the right amount of levity, as only you are capable of, Dmitry. I only hope that the insanely irrational US neocons, who have captured the Trump Admin in a soft coup, get the memo before it's too late. The likes of Lindsay Graham are making noises that a nuclear war against the DPRK, causing millions of Korean (and thousands of American) deaths, would be "worth it." And rumor is that DJT is becoming increasingly unstable, with no one of substance willing to serve in his Admin. I would feel much safer if we had men of stature like Ike, JFK, or even Nixon in charge. The fact that the 2016 election was between Trump v Hillary shows how far this country has sunk.

Pantalones Frescos said...

Great post. I guess I feel some sense of relief that a more reasonable nation holds this powerful deterrent. Mostly I just feel very sad. The hardest thing is that most Americans aren't aware of the larger story you tell. They think the announcement by Putin this week was an aggressive act.

forrest said...

I think it took a pretty determined ideologue to believe in the old anti-ballistic system. Multiple maneuverable warheads, loads of cheap chaff -- & it gets very expensive to collect all the incoming bombs. When you miss one (etc?), you just have a fine funeral for all those fine folks who used to live in Fresno... etc? The whole program was basically a heap of huff&puff to keep more military contractors on the payroll without letting them do anything too practical.

Better to huff&puff than to rip throats out -- but people believe their own huff, consequently get scared & irrational (and/or smug & irrational).

How many foolproof schemes to insure peace have we tried over the centuries? The nuclear one has so far worked sort of... but a true failure would be a mess: 'The stupidest experiment we could possibly try' as a Soviet scientist is said to have put it.

Rationally-planned mechanisms with irrational moving parts? Hmm, wasn't that what kept the nations of Europe from attacking each other until WW I? And assured the peace afterwards almost until WW II? And assured American victory in our War Against Vietnam?

Tamara4U said...

Great perspective and good news.... for the rest of the planet. Meanwhile the USSA is still busted with a good start on a police state infrastructure. A good time to get yourself a Quidnon or other sail powered home and vote with your feet out of the impact zone.

rippon said...

Dmitry,

Please explain why the Americans didn't develop weapons like this.

And what have other powers, e.g. China, been doing over the decades?

Is it only Russia that is capable of such innovative weapons-development work?

Dmitry Orlov said...

rippon -

OK, good question. I'll take that up in another post. As to your last question, the answer seems to be "yes".

Veronica said...

Great piece, Dmitry - I too felt considerably safer after Putin's speech. Really appreciate your helpful as well as satisfying ironic analysis!

Rhisiart Gwilym said...

So, Forrest, that shambolic helicopter departure from the roof of the US embassy in Saigon was USAmerica 'winning' the Vietnam War, was it? Odd perspective.

Christopher said...

Rippon,
I would suggest that necessity is the mother of invention. Russia developed the weapons because it needed to. It also has both reduced military industry corruption and taken a steady incremental approach to development. The Chinese have been focused on trade deals and haven't as much concerned themselves with military threats. With the slowly stewing conflict over the South China Sea that might change and we might get to see what military toys the Chinese have. The US, as dominant military power, has long since succumbed to decadence and corruption. Without an imminent threat to drive a cleanup of corruption or necessity of new weapons, the US has halfheartedly been pursuing 'perfect' all purpose weapons. The F35 is one example of this policy, but there are many others.

rippon said...

Christopher,

What do you mean by 'perfect' weapons?

Do you mean something along these lines:

I recall reading (months ago) something (from TheSaker I think) about Russian airforce generals laughing at American fighters. He was saying something about personnel constantly clearing the tiniest debris from runways so that F16s (or whatever) didn't get damaged when landing. He said (something like) the Americans were making 'Ferraris' - sophisticated, but delicate, machines, good for airshows but not for war situations, where your fighters may well have to land on rough/damaged runways.

sjoh said...

Damn good piece.

dale said...

OK Americans, when erupting into mindless patriotic chants, it's now "WE'RE NUMBER 2!! WE'RE NUMBER 2!!". Please stay tuned for further downgrades, enjoy #2 while it lasts, which probably won't be too long.

Cindy Shirar-Conaway said...

::Laughing hard...:: Rippon, I love you. You are describing what are (NOT affectionately) known as "FOD walks." FOD (Foreign Object Detection) walks are assigned to hapless/clueless, low-ranking U.S. military personnel, stationed on U.S. air bases around the world, as punishment for such infractions as getting sunburned, (considered "malingering,") and "insubordination" (i.e., questioning, out loud, the bombing of a funeral or wedding party, for clarification purposes only.) You can imagine how highly-motivated these individuals actually are on the myriad U.S. military flightlines and runways around the world...LOL...

On another note: I am not surprised--but still somewhat disappointed--that statesman Putin won't "invade" the U.S. We don't deserve it...because it would be an IMPROVEMENT. God help this miserable hell hole, the U.S....

Cindy

markg420 said...

Great article Dmitry - I too feel considerably safer after Putin's speech and hope USA's allies wake up to the fact that America has been outplayed and their military protection now rendered obsolete.

Mike Donathan said...

The thing that concerns me the most is the current class of politicians running the show in the Swamp. The country is worse than bankrupt and who knows what kind of stunts said politicians might try in order to focus the attention of an angry citizenry somewhere besides where it belongs.

forrest said...

All I was saying was "These massive rational plans to achieve this or that don't seem to have a great track record, overall."

karlos said...

great news from Putin - unfortunately believe the morons that run the US will test the new military systems; hope for the best!

Robban said...

I just want to make a remark on the U S intensions of the bombs. The intended date of theire release with 3 days difference and independant of Japan response tells us that the bombs (of 2 different types) was a military experiment to see "what happens when you cast a nuclear bomb on a city with hundreds of thousands of people?" They didn´t cast them to win the war but could do this qruel experiment hidden behind the war.

bairdseymour said...

Great article.
Too bad you don't have any competition in US media.



Russell Bentley said...


Dmitri Orlov is one of the best political writers writing today. I am glad that a Russian who moved to America and an American (well, Texan) who moved to (Novo) Russia can come to the same conclusion on the new era of history that began March 1st. But I must admit he put it more eloquently than I.

http://www.russelltexasbentley.com/2018/03/letter-to-america-opportunity-and.html

wagelaborer said...

US response to Putin's announcement: "He's bluffing, there are no such weapons".

US response to DPRK's launching missiles that fall into the nearby ocean: "Everyone in Hawaii take immediate cover, you're all going to die".

J Elio said...

Regarding the US making similar weapons--my opinion is that the actual funds for this endeavor are minimal once the siphoning off of military research money is done. Very little is actually left for the real job of development. Most of it is a dog and pony show to solicit more funds.

And IMHO the real Achilles heel of the US and the whole Western alliance is not its weapons, but the lack of reality in the economic system. The value of its money is close to zero when the debts are called in (since its based on debt) and from what we've seen of countries with declining energy sources, the debt call in may happen in less than 10 years.

sandykrolick, ph.d., editor FIBP said...

Молодец, Дима!! ;-)

PatOrmsby said...

@Robban, indeed, they had two kinds of atomic bombs they wanted to compare on an actual killing field, one based on uranium and the other on plutonium. The latter won out, being found "ten times more efficient" https://www.atomicheritage.org/history/little-boy-and-fat-man The race to obtain plutonium is what gave the world atomic power, with claims of it being necessary for our energy future, all propped up by government subsidies. Everybody wants the bomb, and Dmitry has laid out the case for that brilliantly. Now if we could just do something about cesium-137...

herepog2 said...

The US mil-ind-complex has siphoned off some $21 trillion.

"$21 trillion of unauthorized spending by US govt discovered by economics professor"

16 Dec, 2017

The US government may have misspent $21 trillion, a professor at Michigan State University has found. Papers supporting the study briefly went missing just as an audit was announced.
Two departments of the US federal government may have spent as much as $21 trillion on things they can’t account for between 1998 and 2015. At least that’s what Mark Skidmore, a Professor of Economics at MSU specializing in public finance, and his team have found.

They came up with the figure after digging the websites of departments of Defense (DoD) and Housing and Urban Development (HUD) as well as repots of the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) over summer.

The research was triggered by Skidmore hearing Catherine Austin Fitts, a former Assistant Secretary in the HUD in the first Bush administration, saying the Inspector General found $6.5 trillion worth of military spending that the DoD couldn’t account for. She was referring to a July 2016 report by the OIG, but Skidmore thought she must be mistaking billion for trillion. Based on his previous experience with public finances, he thought the figure was too big even for an organization as large as the US military.

“Sometimes you have an adjustment just because you don’t have adequate transactions… so an auditor would just recede. Usually it’s just a small portion of authorized spending, maybe one percent at most. So for the Army one percent would be $1.2 billion of transactions that you just can’t account for,” he explained in an interview with USAWatchdog.com earlier this month.

After discovering that the figure was accurate, he and Fitts collaborated with a pair of graduate students to comb through thousands of reports of the OIG dating back to 1998, when new rules of public accountability for the federal government were set and all the way to 2015, the time of the latest reports available at the time. The research was only for the DoD and the HUD.

“This is incomplete, but we have found $21 trillion in adjustments over that period. The biggest chunk is for the Army. We were able to find 13 of the 17 years and we found about $11.5 trillion just for the Army,” Skidmore said.

https://on.rt.com/8uzn

Private debt in the trillions has been transferred to the public while the assets underlying the debt are now private and very likely invested in a massive space program. The US space weapons program went black in the mid 1960s and is at least 3 generations (think anti-grav) more advanced than the ordinary intellect would imagine.

Gary Sellars said...

Good article, but may I correct one point: the cruise missile with the nuclear propulsion system and unlimited range is subsonic, not M10. The M10 missile is the 2,000km air-launched Kinzhal.

Mr. Wasim said...

Personally,I would suggest that necessity is the mother of invention. Russia developed the weapons because they needed to. It also both reduced military industry corruption and taken incremental approach to development

Jean-Paul Printemps said...

An argument in support of nuclear weapons is surely to be rejected. Fission weapons require plutonium, which requires breeder reactors. In a perfect world, yes, these reactors and their waste products would be managed properly into perpetuity, but then, in such a world, there would be no need for nuclear weapons to begin with.

Ixtlan said...

@Dimitry Your analogy of the kettle reminds me of the scene from the movie "Asterix and Obelix":

- Objection, demand, protest! I accuse the Gauls in the abuse of the magic elixir !!!!
- Have you taken it yourself?
- What’s the difference? I didn’t win, anyway!

Anselmo said...

Dear Dimitry

I think that you are very naive describing the nuclear weapons as tools of peace.

History teach us that all the weapons will be employed sooner or later.

I understand that Russia has the right to ensure his safety and for this purpose needs to modernize his nuclear weapons, but I am sure that is inevitable that some state, some time will employ them. I a similar way that in an imaginarian time , was opened the Pandora´s box of the famous mithological tale.

Veronica said...

Anselmo - the US already has used them, albeit an early version, and they did so pretty much for the hell of it. Which is why everyone else figures they need to have them too, in case the US decides to do it again. I think Dmitry's point is valid. It's not that Russia imagines they are now safe - only, given the history lesson in Japan, a little safer than if they didn't have them, with a delivery system that is a serious threat.

Ike said...

Great article. I particularly like the idea that the flow on effect of these weapons for other countries is to make them realize that sheltering behind Uncle Sam's military might is a poor strategy. Hopefully this induces a little more independence in the UN and other international forums
Unfortunately it seems to have caused the English to double down on stupidity regarding their unfounded accusations in the poisoned spy case, although this probably has more to do with sour grapes and disrupting the Football World Cup in Moscow.

Robban said...

Yes, I agree totally with Anselmo. Human beings are genetically naive (as are all animals). We´ve always believed in Gods of all kinds, a trait which also manifests itself in our utopian belief in eternal growth of everything, especially economic growth. The future is always better than yesterday!

But nature isn´t organized that way, it follows rules of its own (the laws of thermodynamics) which some of us know but the great majority don´t even care to know. That I call a belief in the bloody ridiculous. That´s the way we are but are hard to realize.

peakfuture said...

John Michael Greer wrote a similar treatise on nukes a while ago:

http://www.resilience.org/stories/2012-11-15/deterrence-in-an-age-of-decline/

Yesterday, my own $0.02 musing. Yeah, trusting the US government isn't healthy. Ask Native Americans.

https://peakfuture.wordpress.com/2018/03/13/nukes/

Nuclear weapons are "used", but not in their traditional sense.

They might be used in some sort of terrorist situation, but nation-states (as JMG so eloquently opined) don't seem to use weapons of mass destruction against other nation-states. Even the Germans didn't use poison gas at the end of WW2.

For current conflicts, it seems many traditional bombs might get used, but the cost-benefit of WMDs seems to be too high for "traditional" use.

DeVaul said...

While I am glad to know that the Anglo-Israeli Empire has been checkmated again, the ultimate cost for achieving temporary peace will be severe in the long run. Humans may be the only species that deliberately digs its own grave. (Two Mile Island, Chernobyl, Fukushima, _____?______)

Joe Katzman said...

The carrier battle groups are still fine. It's not as easy to find them as you'd think, and without that it doesn't matter what weapons you have. Frankly, Russia's existing Mach 5 Zircon missiles are a bigger problem than the Mach 10 Kinzhal, because they're far less limited in their firing platforms. If any container ship or fighter can suddenly spit Mach 5 missiles at you, that's a much more serious problem.

The hypersonic skip-riders instead of MIRVs are very, very clever. Minor change for major results.

The nuclear torpedo (really a UUV sub)... that's not bad for limited uses in shutting down ports, but it carries its own intercept risks.

The nuclear powered cruise missile is Insane with a capital "I". The USA wisely shelved Project Pluto. The supersonic ICBM class range is great, but leaving a long trail of radiation everywhere you go whenever you fly.... bad, bad idea.

Robban said...

Dear Dmitry, your conclusions about nuclear weapons are based on the completely false assumption that we are fully rational beings. We are, as a species, not rational and this fact prevents us both from realising that we are nuts and to handle any weapons in a rational way, especially nuclear ditto. This means: we are not going to handle nuclear arms correctly (=rationally).

Your own monologue about correct/incorrect behaviour is just a way of make ourselves believe that we are intelligent beings who know what we are doing (=we just fool ourselves).