Tag Archives: nuclear

U.S. Pacific Commander Optimistic

Indispensible Presence

Indispensible Presence


GlobalWonk recently had the great fortune to meet Admiral Timothy J. Keating, Commander, United States Pacific Command. CINCPAC for us old timers. He gave a briefing on security in his area of responsibility for the President’s Council at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

First, he is a very engaging speaker. Being a naval aviator, and forty plus years in the service gives you quite a bit of experience to draw upon when public speaking. He is due to retire in October. He will do well on the speaking circuit. I hope to have him attend a future GlobalWonk event and participate in the discussion.

He made a comment that gave me, as a veteran of the Army, goosebumps. He said that since he entered the Naval Academy all those years ago, all he has worn during his professional life was this, and he gestures to the immaculate uniform he is wearing, “the cloth of our nation”.

Admiral Keating ran down the thirty-six countries in his area of responsibility. Providing a SITREP on each. Japan, China, North Korea. He stated that in all the official visits he has made to heads-of-state, ministers, and military chiefs in the region; he receives one consistent message. The United States is an “indispensable presence” in maintaining stability in the region.

On North Korea he is confident the U.S. military has the capacity to prevent missiles from reaching U.S. territories, or harming allies in the region. He said that there is no planning currently underway for a military option in the nuclear standoff with the DPRK. I communicated to him my belief, from my visit to North Korea in September 2008, that occupying North Korea would make Afghanistan, or Iraq, look like a picnic in comparison. The people of North Korea live a life Americans can hardly imagine, and are raised from childhood to revile us. As I had recently spent five days in-country, he was interested in my perspective. I think we both agreed that a military option in North Korea should be one of last resort.

He is impressed with the strength of the U.S./Japan alliance. He mentioned that it would have been unimaginable just ten years ago to think that a nuclear powered aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. George Washington, would be stationed in Japanese waters.

His most interesting comments regarded China. He feels that the United States military does not see China as a threat. He says that they welcome, and encourage China to take a more active role in the security, and stability of the region. He made it clear that we do this at a pace they are comfortable with. He thought it would be many years before China would be capable of projecting military force beyond their immediate shores. He stated that he did not believe that was their intentions at this point.

I thought it was refreshing to hear these comments from a military commander of his stature. When I left the military in 1992 all I remember hearing was that the Soviets were gone, and China was the next near peer to worry about.

I hope for all of us, and our children, that this is true. As we know, the relationship between the United States and China, or Chimerica, as Niall Ferguson has dubbed it, can go either way.


Nightmare Scenario

Mushroom Cloud 

The security community agrees that there will be a dirty bomb attack on an American city at some point. The puzzle is why it hasn’t happened yet, especially since the means and motives are readily available. – Graham Allison, director of Harvard University’s Belfor Center for Science and International Affairs. Global Security Newswire 10/17/2007.

I left the White House Communications Agency in the fall of 1992. I was back home in the Chicago area before Thanksgiving. My father and I quickly developed a routine of sipping coffee while solving the world’s problems. I very clearly remember telling him I was troubled by some of the things I learned through my duties at WHCA.

Working in the Secure Voice section provided me with access to some of our nation’s most classified information. Conference calls convened in the middle of the night usually involved folks at the tip of the foreign policy or intelligence gathering spear. Things went bump in the night.

Before then I never knew how many people actually wished us harm. People out there actively planning to execute missions designed to kill as many Americans possible. The sheer magnitude of people or groups attempting nefarious acts was astonishing.

At the same time, many of the former Soviet republics were teaming with sites that stockpiled poorly secured raw materials for weapons of mass destruction (WMD). In some cases actual weapons were poorly secured. The break-up of the U.S.S.R. created instability in the region. This greatly enhanced the likelihood some of these materials could change hands. (Where was our post-Cold War Marshall Plan?)

The combination of a very strong desire to cause maximum damage with the opportunity to acquire WMD components created the recipe for a nightmare scenario.

Now, I was a good soldier and would never divulge classified information to my father. Besides duty, honor, country, I was heavily incented (with the threat of a federal prison term) during my out-processing to maintain Omerta. What I did tell my father was that, for the reasons stated above, I believed we would see the detonation of a nuclear device in a major American city within five to ten years.I just felt the odds of preventing every attempt were against us.

My time line would have taken us to 1997 through 2002. Do you think for a minute that the persons responsible for bombing the World Trade Center in 1993, and flying planes into them in 2001, would have thought twice about using a nuclear device if they had the ability to acquire and detonate one? I don’t. Because I know that had they been capable, they would have executed a nuclear mission on United States territory. Our losses on September 11, 2001 would have staggered the mind. The potential for hundreds of thousands dead. Possibly a million or more sick or injured. There would parts of Manhattan uninhabitable for years.

If we fail to act, this deadly combination of relentless will and sloppy controls over access to materials in some areas of the world will spell disaster at some point in the not too distant future. The fact is has not yet happened is testament to the dedication of the professionals working these issues, in our name, every day.

So what can you, as an individual citizen do? I implore you to check out the Nuclear Threat Initiative’s web page at the following link: http://www.nti.org Here you will find information on donating your money and/or efforts to supporting the cause of securing loose WMD materials at sites around the globe. If you need further motivation, take the opportunity to watch their movie; Last Best Chance. It is available at http://www.lastbestchance.org

You can donate cash to enable nonproliferation programs. You can lobby your representatives in Congress and force them to fund these programs. You can elect a President in 2008 that has this issue on their radar screen. The most important thing is to act, before it is too late.