Saturday, May 16, 2009

Contingency Plan

The big fear in the Middle East right now is that the Taliban will topple the current regime in Pakistan and gain control of their nuclear weapons. It's hard to imagine a more frightening circumstance than Islamic terrorists armed with nukes.

To prevent this the military has been training a special ops unit to insert itself into Pakistan, if the Taliban seems on the verge of overrunning it, and to secure the weapons and transfer them to a safe location. Here are excerpts from the Fox News report on this program:

The United States has a detailed plan for infiltrating Pakistan and securing its mobile arsenal of nuclear warheads if it appears the country is about to fall under the control of the Taliban, Al Qaeda or other Islamic extremists.

American intelligence sources say the operation would be conducted by Joint Special Operations Command, the super-secret commando unit headquartered at Fort Bragg, N.C.

JSOC is the military's chief terrorists hunting squad and has units now operating in Afghanistan on Pakistan's western border. But a secondary mission is to secure foreign nuclear arsenals -- a role for which JSOC operatives have trained in Nevada.

The mission has taken on added importance in recent months, as Islamic extremists have taken territory close to the capital of Islamabad and could destabilize Pakistan's shaky democracy.

"We have plans to secure them ourselves if things get out of hand," said a U.S. intelligence source who has deployed to Afghanistan. "That is a big secondary mission for JSOC in Afghanistan."

The source said JSOC has been updating its mission plan for the day President Obama gives the order to infiltrate Pakistan.

"Small units could seize them, disable them and then centralize them in a secure location," the source said.

A secret Defense Intelligence Agency document first disclosed in 2004 said Pakistan has a nuclear arsenal of 35 weapons. The document said it plans to more than double the arsenal by 2020.

What makes the Pakistan mission especially difficult is that the military has its missiles on Soviet-style mobile launchers and rail lines. U.S. intelligence agencies, using satellite photos and communication intercepts, is constantly monitoring their whereabouts. Other warheads are kept in storage. U.S. technical experts have visited Pakistan to advise the government on how to maintain and protect its arsenal.

Also, there are rogue elements inside Pakistan's military and intelligence service who could quickly side with the extremists and make JSOC's mission all the more difficult.

"It's relatively easy to track rail-mounted ones with satellites," said the intelligence source. "Truck-mounted are more difficult. However, they are all relatively close to the capital in areas that the government firmly controls so we don't have to look too far."

JSOC is made up of three main elements: Army Delta Force, Navy SEALs and a high-tech special intelligence unit known as Task Force Orange. JSOC was instrumental in Iraq in finding and killing Abu Musab Zarqawi, the deadly and most prominent Al Qaeda leader in the Middle East.

This seems like our best option in Pakistan should Islamist seizure of the weapons appear imminent. So, what is the plan for Iran?


Trickle Down

The Washington Post reports that GM will be cutting 2400 of its 6000 dealerships by the end of next year and Chrysler is closing 789 of its 3181 dealerships. Think for a moment the effect these layoffs will have. The corporation gets itself into financial trouble and the problems ramify all the way down to the mechanics working in the service bay and the stockboys working in the parts department. Many of these workers will lose their jobs so they'll have no money to spend in the communities in which they live. There'll be less money spent in restaurants, movie theaters, on home maintenance, etc. which means that those businesses will suffer also. Moreover, when the dealership goes out of business the local community takes a huge hit in its tax revenue. Thus the devastation trickles all the way down to minimum wage workers in every business in the local municipality.

This all seems pretty obvious so why mention it? Because there has been in our country over the last couple of decades a lot of derision leveled at the idea of "trickle down" economics, the idea that what helps businesses at the top helps everyone all the way down the economic ladder. The left misses no opportunity to mock this notion which is a key element in the justification for tax cuts in the midst of difficult economic times. When the corporation has more money to spend everyone all the way down to the waitress in the local restaurant benefits even though they're unaware of it. A rising tide does indeed lift all boats as Ronald Reagan used to say, much to the scorn of his critics.

It's amazing that people have no difficulty seeing that economic malaise is a trickle down phenomenon, but they refuse to acknowledge that economic vigor also cascades through the society and lifts everyone up. When taxes are cut on corporations they have more money to invest in the business and that provides jobs not only for their own employees but, as in the case of the car industry, also for the dealerships and thus for communities all across the nation. Tax cuts also enable the business to keep their prices lower so their customers have more money to spend on other businesses in their town and a prosperous business is a source of tax revenue for the local municipality.

It all seems so obvious that it astonishes me that the left has been so successful in persuading people that the best way to achieve prosperity is to raise taxes on business, increase their costs, and diminish the amount of wealth available to the hundreds and thousands of people who are effected by that business's economic health.

"Trickle down" is almost a law of economics, whether it's trickle down malaise or trickle down prosperity, and what's happening right now at Chrysler and GM should convince even the most otiose of its inexorability.