Friday, February 24, 2012 INTERNATIONAL

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False nuclear fears cloud judgment on Iran

AP NUCLEAR TRUTH: Years of alarmist predictions about proliferation chains, and points of no return have proven faulty. The picture shows the reactor building of a nuclear power plant, outside the southern Iranian city of Bushehr.
John Mueller

 
A rational approach to preventing proliferation could avoid thousands of unnecessary deaths.
Alarmism about nuclear proliferation is fairly common coin in the foreign policy establishment. And of late it has been boosted by the seeming efforts of Iran or its friends to answer covert assassinations, apparently by Israel, with attacks and attempted attacks of their own in India, Georgia and Thailand. 
A non-hysterical approach to the Iran nuclear issue is entirely possible. It should take several considerations into account. If the rattled and insecure Iranian leadership is lying when it says it has no intention of developing nuclear weapons, or if it undergoes a conversion from that position (triggered perhaps by an Israeli air strike), it will find, like all other nuclear-armed states, that the bombs are essentially useless and a considerable waste of time, effort, money and scientific talent. 
Nuclear weapons have had a tremendous influence on our agonies and obsessions since 1945, inspiring desperate rhetoric, extravagant theorising, wasteful expenditure and frenetic diplomatic posturing. However, they have been of little historic consequence. And they were not necessary to prevent a third world war or a major conflict in Europe: each leak from the archives suggests that the Soviet Union never seriously considered direct military aggression against the U.S. or Europe. That is, there was nothing to deter. 
Moreover, there never seem to have been militarily compelling — or even minimally sensible — reasons to use the weapons, particularly because of an inability to identify targets that were both suitable and could not be effectively attacked using conventional munitions. 
 
As a deterrent 
Iran would most likely “use” any nuclear capacity in the same way all other nuclear states have: for prestige (or ego-stoking) and to deter real or perceived threats. Historical experience strongly suggests that new nuclear countries, even ones that once seemed hugely threatening, like communist China in the 1960s, are content to use their weapons for such purposes. 
Indeed, as strategist (and Nobel laureate) Thomas Schelling suggests, deterrence is about the only value the weapons might have for Iran. Such devices, he points out, “would be too precious to give away or to sell” and “too precious to waste killing people” when they could make other countries “hesitant to consider military action”. 
The popular notion that nuclear weapons furnish a country with the capacity to “dominate” its area has little or no historical support — in the main, nuclear threats since 1945 have either been ignored or met with countervailing opposition, not timorous acquiescence. It thus seems overwhelmingly likely that, if a nuclear Iran brandishes its weapons to intimidate others or get its way, it will find that those threatened, rather than capitulating or rushing off to build a compensating arsenal of their own, will ally with others, including conceivably Israel, to stand up to the intimidation — rather in the way an alliance of convenience coalesced to oppose Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990. 
Iran’s leadership, though hostile and unpleasant in many ways, is not a gaggle of suicidal lunatics. Thus, as Schelling suggests, it is exceedingly unlikely it would give nuclear weapons to a group like Hezbollah to detonate, not least because the rational ones in charge would fear that the source would be detected, inviting devastating retaliation. 
Taking on Iran
Nor is an Iranian bomb likely to trigger a cascade of proliferation in the Middle East, as many people insist. Decades of alarmist predictions about proliferation chains, cascades, dominoes, waves, avalanches, epidemics and points of no return have proven faulty. The proliferation of nuclear weapons has been far slower than routinely expected because, insofar as most leaders of most countries, even rogue ones, have considered acquiring the weapons, they have come to appreciate several defects: the weapons are dangerous, distasteful, costly and likely to rile the neighbours. And the nuclear diffusion that has transpired has had remarkably limited, perhaps even imperceptible, consequences. As Professor Jacques Hymans has shown, the weapons have also been exceedingly difficult to obtain for administratively dysfunctional countries like Iran.
There is also an uncomfortable truth. If Iran wants to develop a nuclear weapon, the only way it can be effectively stopped is invasion and occupation, an undertaking that would make America’s costly war in Iraq look like child’s play. Indeed, because it can credibly threaten invaders with another and worse Iraq, Iran scarcely needs nuclear weapons to deter invasion. This fact might eventually dawn on its leaders. 
Air strikes on Iran’s nuclear facilities might temporarily set them back, but the country’s most likely response would be to launch a truly dedicated effort to obtain a bomb, as Iraq’s nuclear weapons budget was increased twenty-five-fold after its facilities were bombed by Israel in 1981. Moreover, Iran might well respond by seeking to make life markedly more difficult for U.S. and Nato forces in neighbouring Afghanistan.
The experience with aggressive counter-proliferation policies should give pause to anyone advocating such an approach. Airstrikes can cause extensive collateral damage, and an invasion would be even more costly. And economic sanctions should only be applied with great care. Those imposed on Iraq in the 1990s, for instance, appear to have been a necessary cause of more deaths than were inflicted by the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined. And the same human toll was exacted in the misguided anti-proliferation war against Iraq in 2003. 
I have nothing against making non-proliferation a high priority. I would simply like to top it with a somewhat higher priority: avoiding militarily aggressive actions under the obsessive sway of worst-case scenario fantasies, which might lead to the deaths of tens or hundreds of thousands of people.
(John Mueller is professor of political science at Ohio State University. He is the author of Atomic Obsession.)
— © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2012

 

Comment

AP NUCLEAR TRUTH: Years of alarmist predictions about proliferation chains, and points of no return have proven faulty. The picture shows the reactor building of a nuclear power plant, outside the southern Iranian city of Bushehr.
John Mueller

 
A rational approach to preventing proliferation could avoid thousands of unnecessary deaths.
Alarmism about nuclear proliferation is fairly common coin in the foreign policy establishment. And of late it has been boosted by the seeming efforts of Iran or its friends to answer covert assassinations, apparently by Israel, with attacks and attempted attacks of their own in India, Georgia and Thailand. 
A non-hysterical approach to the Iran nuclear issue is entirely possible. It should take several considerations into account. If the rattled and insecure Iranian leadership is lying when it says it has no intention of developing nuclear weapons, or if it undergoes a conversion from that position (triggered perhaps by an Israeli air strike), it will find, like all other nuclear-armed states, that the bombs are essentially useless and a considerable waste of time, effort, money and scientific talent. 
Nuclear weapons have had a tremendous influence on our agonies and obsessions since 1945, inspiring desperate rhetoric, extravagant theorising, wasteful expenditure and frenetic diplomatic posturing. However, they have been of little historic consequence. And they were not necessary to prevent a third world war or a major conflict in Europe: each leak from the archives suggests that the Soviet Union never seriously considered direct military aggression against the U.S. or Europe. That is, there was nothing to deter. 
Moreover, there never seem to have been militarily compelling — or even minimally sensible — reasons to use the weapons, particularly because of an inability to identify targets that were both suitable and could not be effectively attacked using conventional munitions. 
 
As a deterrent 
Iran would most likely “use” any nuclear capacity in the same way all other nuclear states have: for prestige (or ego-stoking) and to deter real or perceived threats. Historical experience strongly suggests that new nuclear countries, even ones that once seemed hugely threatening, like communist China in the 1960s, are content to use their weapons for such purposes. 
Indeed, as strategist (and Nobel laureate) Thomas Schelling suggests, deterrence is about the only value the weapons might have for Iran. Such devices, he points out, “would be too precious to give away or to sell” and “too precious to waste killing people” when they could make other countries “hesitant to consider military action”. 
The popular notion that nuclear weapons furnish a country with the capacity to “dominate” its area has little or no historical support — in the main, nuclear threats since 1945 have either been ignored or met with countervailing opposition, not timorous acquiescence. It thus seems overwhelmingly likely that, if a nuclear Iran brandishes its weapons to intimidate others or get its way, it will find that those threatened, rather than capitulating or rushing off to build a compensating arsenal of their own, will ally with others, including conceivably Israel, to stand up to the intimidation — rather in the way an alliance of convenience coalesced to oppose Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990. 
Iran’s leadership, though hostile and unpleasant in many ways, is not a gaggle of suicidal lunatics. Thus, as Schelling suggests, it is exceedingly unlikely it would give nuclear weapons to a group like Hezbollah to detonate, not least because the rational ones in charge would fear that the source would be detected, inviting devastating retaliation. 
Taking on Iran
Nor is an Iranian bomb likely to trigger a cascade of proliferation in the Middle East, as many people insist. Decades of alarmist predictions about proliferation chains, cascades, dominoes, waves, avalanches, epidemics and points of no return have proven faulty. The proliferation of nuclear weapons has been far slower than routinely expected because, insofar as most leaders of most countries, even rogue ones, have considered acquiring the weapons, they have come to appreciate several defects: the weapons are dangerous, distasteful, costly and likely to rile the neighbours. And the nuclear diffusion that has transpired has had remarkably limited, perhaps even imperceptible, consequences. As Professor Jacques Hymans has shown, the weapons have also been exceedingly difficult to obtain for administratively dysfunctional countries like Iran.
There is also an uncomfortable truth. If Iran wants to develop a nuclear weapon, the only way it can be effectively stopped is invasion and occupation, an undertaking that would make America’s costly war in Iraq look like child’s play. Indeed, because it can credibly threaten invaders with another and worse Iraq, Iran scarcely needs nuclear weapons to deter invasion. This fact might eventually dawn on its leaders. 
Air strikes on Iran’s nuclear facilities might temporarily set them back, but the country’s most likely response would be to launch a truly dedicated effort to obtain a bomb, as Iraq’s nuclear weapons budget was increased twenty-five-fold after its facilities were bombed by Israel in 1981. Moreover, Iran might well respond by seeking to make life markedly more difficult for U.S. and Nato forces in neighbouring Afghanistan.
The experience with aggressive counter-proliferation policies should give pause to anyone advocating such an approach. Airstrikes can cause extensive collateral damage, and an invasion would be even more costly. And economic sanctions should only be applied with great care. Those imposed on Iraq in the 1990s, for instance, appear to have been a necessary cause of more deaths than were inflicted by the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined. And the same human toll was exacted in the misguided anti-proliferation war against Iraq in 2003. 
I have nothing against making non-proliferation a high priority. I would simply like to top it with a somewhat higher priority: avoiding militarily aggressive actions under the obsessive sway of worst-case scenario fantasies, which might lead to the deaths of tens or hundreds of thousands of people.
(John Mueller is professor of political science at Ohio State University. He is the author of Atomic Obsession.)
— © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2012

 


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Rajapaksa working to implement LLRC’s advice

Jehan Perera in Colombo

 
One concern in President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s speech to the nation on Independence Day was the persistent international pressure on his government on human rights issues during and after the end of the war. The other concern was the efforts to destabilise the government through mass agitation that is taking the form of anti-government public demonstrations and street protests.  The political instincts of the President which have given him an edge over his rivals appear to have been confirmed in the events that have unfolded in the fortnight since his speech.
The increased pressure on the government from the international community was more or less to be expected.  The government had ample forewarning that the March session of the UN’s Human Rights Council in Geneva would not be an easy one.  It was on account of this that government leaders made use of every opportunity to take wing to foreign nations to lobby their governments on behalf of the nation.  The government’s trump card in appealing to the governments of fellow developing nations is that all of them have their own apprehensions about Sri Lanka being made a precedent that they might have to follow.  
The government is also not leaving anything to chance.  It has also started to visibly implement the recommendations of its Lessons Learn and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC)which it put forward as being the answer to the allegations that it was not doing enough to ensure accountability and reconciliation.  In his Independence Day speech the President raised expectations all round by stating that his government was working hard at implementing the LLRC’s recommendations.  In the past several days there have been a flurry of announcements by government bodies with regard to such implementation.  These include the setting up of a military inquiry into possible war crimes and human rights violations in the last phase of the war.
 
Government actions
With just a week to go before the UN’s Human Rights Council sessions commence in Geneva, Sri Lanka’s army commander has appointed a court of inquiry to investigate charges that troops were responsible for killing civilians and prisoners in the final stages of their war against Tamil rebels in 2009, an army statement said.  The five-member panel of officers is mandated to investigate allegations, including that it executed prisoners as claimed in a documentary by Britain’s Channel 4 television channel.  In addition, the country’s Attorney General has said that the police had begun to record statements by persons who gave evidence before the LLRC.  This could start the process of prosecutions of alleged wrong doers and accountability.
So far the government has managed to keep the issue of its alleged war crimes out of international forums that have collective inter-governmental mandates.  So far the issue has only been taken up by individual governments or their parliaments and international NGOs in their forums.  Even the panel of experts who provided a report on Sri Lanka to the UN Secretary General did so without the formal sanction of any UN body, such as the General Assembly, Security Council or Human Rights Council.  The government will be hoping that its recent actions to implement the LLRC recommendations, together with the lobbying efforts of its ministers and diplomats abroad, will suffice to deflect the looming challenge in Geneva.
During their recent visit to Sri Lanka, US Undersecretary of State Maria Otero and Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake are reported to have taken the position that the United States government is supportive of a credible internal and national investigation into possible war crimes and human rights violations. While the United States government has shared the concerns of other Western governments about the accountability findings and also the larger LLRC process, they have also been in favour of giving the Sri Lankan government more time to set in motion an internal mechanism.

Comment

Jehan Perera in Colombo

 
One concern in President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s speech to the nation on Independence Day was the persistent international pressure on his government on human rights issues during and after the end of the war. The other concern was the efforts to destabilise the government through mass agitation that is taking the form of anti-government public demonstrations and street protests.  The political instincts of the President which have given him an edge over his rivals appear to have been confirmed in the events that have unfolded in the fortnight since his speech.
The increased pressure on the government from the international community was more or less to be expected.  The government had ample forewarning that the March session of the UN’s Human Rights Council in Geneva would not be an easy one.  It was on account of this that government leaders made use of every opportunity to take wing to foreign nations to lobby their governments on behalf of the nation.  The government’s trump card in appealing to the governments of fellow developing nations is that all of them have their own apprehensions about Sri Lanka being made a precedent that they might have to follow.  
The government is also not leaving anything to chance.  It has also started to visibly implement the recommendations of its Lessons Learn and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC)which it put forward as being the answer to the allegations that it was not doing enough to ensure accountability and reconciliation.  In his Independence Day speech the President raised expectations all round by stating that his government was working hard at implementing the LLRC’s recommendations.  In the past several days there have been a flurry of announcements by government bodies with regard to such implementation.  These include the setting up of a military inquiry into possible war crimes and human rights violations in the last phase of the war.
 
Government actions
With just a week to go before the UN’s Human Rights Council sessions commence in Geneva, Sri Lanka’s army commander has appointed a court of inquiry to investigate charges that troops were responsible for killing civilians and prisoners in the final stages of their war against Tamil rebels in 2009, an army statement said.  The five-member panel of officers is mandated to investigate allegations, including that it executed prisoners as claimed in a documentary by Britain’s Channel 4 television channel.  In addition, the country’s Attorney General has said that the police had begun to record statements by persons who gave evidence before the LLRC.  This could start the process of prosecutions of alleged wrong doers and accountability.
So far the government has managed to keep the issue of its alleged war crimes out of international forums that have collective inter-governmental mandates.  So far the issue has only been taken up by individual governments or their parliaments and international NGOs in their forums.  Even the panel of experts who provided a report on Sri Lanka to the UN Secretary General did so without the formal sanction of any UN body, such as the General Assembly, Security Council or Human Rights Council.  The government will be hoping that its recent actions to implement the LLRC recommendations, together with the lobbying efforts of its ministers and diplomats abroad, will suffice to deflect the looming challenge in Geneva.
During their recent visit to Sri Lanka, US Undersecretary of State Maria Otero and Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake are reported to have taken the position that the United States government is supportive of a credible internal and national investigation into possible war crimes and human rights violations. While the United States government has shared the concerns of other Western governments about the accountability findings and also the larger LLRC process, they have also been in favour of giving the Sri Lankan government more time to set in motion an internal mechanism.

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 ISLAMABAD DIARY 

Pakistanis observe mother tongue day

Jonaid Iqbal

 
Pakistan observed the International Mother Language Day on February 21.  The day is observed in Bangladesh in remembrance of the tragedy that shook Dhaka on February 21, 1952. Police shot dead four persons in a big procession that demanded Bengali as a state language of the then Pakistan.
 Since 1999 February 21 is commemorated in entire world as International Mother language day on the direction of UNESCO.   Pakistan joined Bangladesh in remembering the Mother Language Day. A seminar held at Lok Virsa (National Institute for Folk and Traditional Heritage) and Rapid Development Policy Institute (RDPI) adopted a number of Resolution. It asked for  status as national language for all 18 regional written and spoken languages in five provinces as well as for steps to develop these languages which they said is endangered.  
The seminar also proposed that such languages in the country that are without a written script should be documented. This step may help to preserve a number of languages that are under threat.
The world-wide observance of Mother Tongue Day is helping citizens of this country to rediscover the value of education in mother tongue, since educating people during formative years helps children to assimilate new ideas and enabled the instant connection with their surroundings and the world around.
A number of interesting point of view emerged at the Lok Virsa seminar. According to a point of view, Pakistan is a land of several languages and picturesque culture but it has not tried to seek strength from its variety. Instead, homogeneous thinking was being imposed. 
Some one quoted a Pashto leader the late Wali Khan: “I would not want a garden with only  one kind of flower with the same colour.”  
A lady discussant observed at the seminar about the difficulty she faced in teaching students, who  generally could not understand ideas even in Urdu because they lacked understanding of their  mother tongue. “It is a pity that in this country we find a number of departments teaching foreign languages but none to each our national languages.”
Speaking about Urdu, she said students do not know proper Urdu with the present disconcerting trend constantly aired in the  media,  mixing Urdu words with foreign tongue, as for example  the phrase: Anda boil kar do  (boil the egg).
Faridullah Khan, Secretary, Heritage Ministry, chairing the seminar, agreed with the resolution, and promised to forward them to the government. The official agreed also that promotion of regional languages was vital for cultural diversity and national harmony.
Another noteworthy function was launching of a book written in Pushto and Torwali by painter Fauzia Minallah on the story of Sadako, a Japanese girl, who fell victim of Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear holocaust caused by atomic bomb blast in August 1945 by US military plane Enola Gay.
Another discussion on Mother tongue instruction and inclusive education” took place at the National Language Authority. It was organized by Sindhi Adabi Sangat The seminar adopted one more resolution   asking the government  to  declare  provincial languages as national languages and to make moother language studies compulsory at the primary level in private schools and up to secondary level in government schools.
Speaking on the occasion Nawab Talpur, a National Assembly Member from Sindh, observed that Pakistan would prosper and progress after making local languages into national languages and provincial identity will be safeguarded.
In this context, we must also mention the  music evening hosted by Hunerkada Academy (Islamabad) 
The musical soiree was dedicated to Bangla  language revolutionary  and national poet of Bangladesh Kazi Nazrul Islam (1899-1976). To host the evening to present Nazrul songs was Ra’na’s idea. She is daughter of veteran of Pakistan Movement, late Mahmud Ali, and her sister Seema. Ra’na mentioned in her introductory speech that she and her father were then jailed for supporting the movement.
Nazrul Islam’s songs were sung (interpreted) in Bangla by a Pakistan vocalist Shakir Sen, who belongs to the Sen family of musicians. He claimed that the house of singers traces its ancestry to the legendary classical singer Tan Sen. 
Shakir attempted  Nazrul geeti for the first time ever and the inspiration for it came from Ra’na. The music compositions were his own.
The vocalist sang with a magnificent voice, playing harmonium, assisted by Hania Ameen, probably the first woman tabla player in Pakistan.
Abdur Rahman, a lad from Swat, brought with him his Rabab musical instrument.

Comment

Jonaid Iqbal

 
Pakistan observed the International Mother Language Day on February 21.  The day is observed in Bangladesh in remembrance of the tragedy that shook Dhaka on February 21, 1952. Police shot dead four persons in a big procession that demanded Bengali as a state language of the then Pakistan.
 Since 1999 February 21 is commemorated in entire world as International Mother language day on the direction of UNESCO.   Pakistan joined Bangladesh in remembering the Mother Language Day. A seminar held at Lok Virsa (National Institute for Folk and Traditional Heritage) and Rapid Development Policy Institute (RDPI) adopted a number of Resolution. It asked for  status as national language for all 18 regional written and spoken languages in five provinces as well as for steps to develop these languages which they said is endangered.  
The seminar also proposed that such languages in the country that are without a written script should be documented. This step may help to preserve a number of languages that are under threat.
The world-wide observance of Mother Tongue Day is helping citizens of this country to rediscover the value of education in mother tongue, since educating people during formative years helps children to assimilate new ideas and enabled the instant connection with their surroundings and the world around.
A number of interesting point of view emerged at the Lok Virsa seminar. According to a point of view, Pakistan is a land of several languages and picturesque culture but it has not tried to seek strength from its variety. Instead, homogeneous thinking was being imposed. 
Some one quoted a Pashto leader the late Wali Khan: “I would not want a garden with only  one kind of flower with the same colour.”  
A lady discussant observed at the seminar about the difficulty she faced in teaching students, who  generally could not understand ideas even in Urdu because they lacked understanding of their  mother tongue. “It is a pity that in this country we find a number of departments teaching foreign languages but none to each our national languages.”
Speaking about Urdu, she said students do not know proper Urdu with the present disconcerting trend constantly aired in the  media,  mixing Urdu words with foreign tongue, as for example  the phrase: Anda boil kar do  (boil the egg).
Faridullah Khan, Secretary, Heritage Ministry, chairing the seminar, agreed with the resolution, and promised to forward them to the government. The official agreed also that promotion of regional languages was vital for cultural diversity and national harmony.
Another noteworthy function was launching of a book written in Pushto and Torwali by painter Fauzia Minallah on the story of Sadako, a Japanese girl, who fell victim of Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear holocaust caused by atomic bomb blast in August 1945 by US military plane Enola Gay.
Another discussion on Mother tongue instruction and inclusive education” took place at the National Language Authority. It was organized by Sindhi Adabi Sangat The seminar adopted one more resolution   asking the government  to  declare  provincial languages as national languages and to make moother language studies compulsory at the primary level in private schools and up to secondary level in government schools.
Speaking on the occasion Nawab Talpur, a National Assembly Member from Sindh, observed that Pakistan would prosper and progress after making local languages into national languages and provincial identity will be safeguarded.
In this context, we must also mention the  music evening hosted by Hunerkada Academy (Islamabad) 
The musical soiree was dedicated to Bangla  language revolutionary  and national poet of Bangladesh Kazi Nazrul Islam (1899-1976). To host the evening to present Nazrul songs was Ra’na’s idea. She is daughter of veteran of Pakistan Movement, late Mahmud Ali, and her sister Seema. Ra’na mentioned in her introductory speech that she and her father were then jailed for supporting the movement.
Nazrul Islam’s songs were sung (interpreted) in Bangla by a Pakistan vocalist Shakir Sen, who belongs to the Sen family of musicians. He claimed that the house of singers traces its ancestry to the legendary classical singer Tan Sen. 
Shakir attempted  Nazrul geeti for the first time ever and the inspiration for it came from Ra’na. The music compositions were his own.
The vocalist sang with a magnificent voice, playing harmonium, assisted by Hania Ameen, probably the first woman tabla player in Pakistan.
Abdur Rahman, a lad from Swat, brought with him his Rabab musical instrument.

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