Thursday, May 28, 2009


I know that North Korea's nuke technology came from A.Q.Khan, but does anybody know where they learned to build missiles? We keep being told what a hopeless, backward country this is, yet missiles are very tricky, engineeringwise. Anyway, just wondered. But, meanwhile, here is John Bolton, the man in permanent disguise, dishing out the hard line on nuclear strategy and here is Seamus Milne selling the soft touch scenario. Neither is quite credible. Bolton blames Obama for adopting a weak position towards Russia and then says the Russians have refused his approaches; probably they saw something Bolton doesn't, his view being obscured by his ludicrous facial hair. Milne thinks North Korea is negotiation-ready. I doubt it. The fundamental difference is between the nukes are here to stay, be realistic, analysis and the nukes provoke more nukes and we can get rid of them position. Humans being what they are, I tend towards the former though not if the appalling Bolton is running the show. Banning nukes seems historically implausible and aggressive disarmament by the nuclear powers will convince others that this is their big chance. On the other hand, proliferation is now certain and that means, at some point, nukes will be used in anger. We can only hope millions rather than billions die. Edward O.Wilson said that if hamadryas baboons had nukes the world would be destroyed in a week. Individuals may have their virtues and gifts, but humanity as a whole is a baboon colony. And so my conclusion is: nukes are like women - can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em.
PS. All of which made me forget a superbly appropriate joke. What do you call a monkey in a minefield? A BaBOOM!


  1. I know, that'll be the old PMT eh?

    yes, there'll be tears before bedtime, the writing's on the wall.

  2. China or Iran probably, and then the NKs re-export the know-how to the Middle East. The more interesting question is how when proliferation takes place throughout the ME, the local cultures will deal with command and control/deterrence issues. I wouldn't assume these things will be handled as the Americans and Russians handle them. Anyway, that's on the agenda tonight, matey!

  3. North Korea's missile technology is based on 1950s Scuds that they got way back from the Russians/Chinese. First they taught themselves how to make new ones for themselves, and then to extend the ranges, etc. etc.

    It's pretty crude stuff, and the resulting missiles are notoriously unreliable. When tested they rarely do what the North Koreans expect them to.

    Selling Scud clones around the world (and in some cases more advanced technology) has been one of their very few ways of earning money, so there has been a strong economic incentive for the programme, as well as a military/political one.

    Nuclear disarmament is virtually impossible because any country with nuclear power plants and a reasonable engineering base is in a position to make a weapon. As is well known, this is where Japan is, and it is where Britain would be even if she decided to "disarm".

  4. Responding to anonymous:

    North Korea has worked with the Iranians. The two programmes began independently, but developed along similar lines (reverse engineering Scuds). Initially North Korea was in advance of Iran (they started sooner - 1970s), but the Iranians have probably overtaken them by now.

  5. Jeez, it's not rocket science, you know.