Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Right Stuff

Hot Air links us to an article at Wired which discusses some of the difficulties encountered by intelligence agencies in locating Iran's underground nuclear weapons facilities and some of the technology that's being brought to bear on the problem.

It's interesting reading, but the article goes on to address the problem of how to neutralize the facilities once the tunnels that house them are identified and mapped. There are a number of tools that have been or are being developed in order to accomplish this task including bombs called massive ordinance penetrators (MOPs) which can penetrate 60 feet of solid concrete before detonating.


There are also other options which rely on finesse rather than brute power:

The MOP may be capable of smashing through a lot of rock, but there are smarter approaches. The U.S. Air Force has developed skip-bombing techniques with bunker busters so that they arrive horizontally and can be aimed precisely at entrance doors. They may not destroy the entire facility, but if all the entrances are wrecked, then nothing can go in or out.

Thermobaric bombs like the BLU-118 "cave buster" have been specifically designed for attacking tunnel systems; the shockwave will travel far underground, going around corners and bends that would degrade normal blast waves. One test showed that it could kill human targets even when the blast had traveled through 1,100 feet of tunnels.

There are also more exotic options, like the Rocket Balls (or more correctly, "kinetic fireball incendiaries") developed for the Defense Threat Reduction Agency. A warhead would release a large number of these rubberized balls of rocket fuel; once ignited they bounce around at high speed, spreading out by going through doorways and other openings and raising the surrounding temperature to over a thousand degrees within seconds.

Will Iran give up its nuclear weapons program? If they don't will we try to take it out? If we do what will be the blowback from such an operation? Does Barack Obama have the right stuff to deal wisely with these questions? Let's hope.


More on Reid Faux Pas

A friend emails me to comment on the post Jumping on Reid, and his thoughts afford me the opportunity to say a little more about the matter. Mike writes:

I think the really horrible point in Trent Lott's statement a few years ago was the reference to the "good old days" before the civil rights movement. Whether said in jest or not, a public statement like this from a senator from Mississippi was legitimate reason for Lott to step down.

Maybe Reid's comments aren't sufficient for his dismissal, but certainly if we wanted to see a senator resign for reasons of poor character and incompetence, Harry Reid would be one of the first on the list.

I wrote back to him:


I would agree with you that it would have been reprehensible had Lott said what he said with civil rights in mind, but I have no reason to think that he did. Lot's of people are nostalgic for the "good old days" and mean nothing hurtful by it. The plight of minorities isn't even on their horizon when they use the phrase. I don't have any reason to think Lott was doing anything but trying to make an old guy feel good on his 100th birthday.

I think that our political discourse needs to change from a "gotcha" mentality where all we care about are the politically correct rules of the game to a point where we give people the benefit of the doubt until we have good reason to believe that they're unfit for office. In other words, I think we need a lot more of the Golden Rule in politics.

I believe with you that Reid is unfit to be a senator, much less majority leader, but not because of his comments about Obama. If we don't want people to criticize us unfairly for things we say which may have implications we didn't intend then we shouldn't criticize them when they make the same kinds of statements.

Parenthetically, I just read chapter 5 of Sarah Palin's book Going Rogue, and I have to say that if she's only half right about the way her political opponents tried to destroy her after the 2008 election then there really are some very wicked and contemptible political activists in our society. Conservatives should strive to be nothing like them.


More on the Hume Affair

Russ Douthat weighs in at The New York Times on the controversy surrounding Brit Hume's advice to Tiger Woods to embrace Christianity. Douthat thinks the outcry over this is a bit ridiculous:

Liberal democracy offers religious believers a bargain. Accept, as a price of citizenship, that you may never impose your convictions on your neighbor, or use state power to compel belief. In return, you will be free to practice your own faith as you see fit - and free, as well, to compete with other believers (and nonbelievers) in the marketplace of ideas.

That's the theory. In practice, the admirable principle that no one should be persecuted for their beliefs often blurs into the more illiberal idea that nobody should ever publicly criticize another religion. Or champion one's own faith as an alternative. Or say anything whatsoever about religion, outside the privacy of church, synagogue or home.

A week ago, Brit Hume broke all three rules at once. Asked on a Fox News panel what advice he'd give to the embattled Tiger Woods, Hume suggested that the golfer consider converting to Christianity. "He's said to be a Buddhist," Hume noted. "I don't think that faith offers the kind of forgiveness and redemption that is offered by the Christian faith."

A great many people immediately declared that this comment was the most outrageous thing they'd ever heard. Hume's words were replayed by Jon Stewart on the Daily Show, to shocked laughter from the audience. They were denounced across the blogosphere as evidence of chauvinism, bigotry and gross stupidity. MSNBC's Keith Olbermann claimed, absurdly, that Hume had tried to "threaten Tiger Woods into becoming a Christian." His colleague David Shuster suggested that Hume had "denigrated" his own religion by discussing it on a talk show.

The Washington Post's TV critic, Tom Shales, mocked the idea that Christians should "run around trying to drum up new business" for their faith. Hume "doesn't really have the authority," Shales suggested - unless of course "one believes that every Christian by mandate must proselytize." (This is, of course, exactly what Christians are supposed to believe.)

You can read the rest of Douthat's fine column at the link. The secular left has long wished to eliminate religion from public life and in order to accomplish this they've tried to conflate the constitutional proscription against federal meddling in religious matters with a total secularization of all public spaces. The idea that the federal government must be neutral on matters of religion is subtly extended in the public mind to encompass the idea that no one speaking in public should be religiously partisan.

This is nonsense, of course, but that's the understanding of the place of religion in society that progressives are trying to foist upon us.

Their strategy sometimes seems to involve the following four steps which may be implemented either in sequence or simultaneously:

First, make religious belief seem risible and backward in the eyes of the people. Second, convince them that religious talk, particularly in social settings, is impolite. Next, gradually and imperceptibly persuade people to think that not only is there something vaguely inappropriate about talk involving one's personal religious beliefs but that it's also offensive to people. Finally, encourage people to think that any discourse which offends others is ipso facto hurtful and should therefore be illegal.

This evolution has already succeeded in some European precincts where, for example, it's now considered unlawful hate speech for a pastor to tell his congregation that the Bible considers homosexual behavior to be a sin.

Perhaps one reason so many secularists were outraged by Hume's remarks is that they defied the smooth progress the secularists thought they were making toward their religiously sterile omega point.


Brewing Upset

A very surprising development, one absolutely critical for the future of President Obama's agenda, if not for health care, is brewing in Massachusetts. On January 19th a special election will be held to fill the seat of the late Senator Ted Kennedy. Until recently it was a foregone conclusion that, with a 3-1 edge in voter registration in her pocket, the Democrat, Martha Coakley, would defeat the Republican Scott Brown.

Now it turns out that Brown, who seems to have come out of nowhere, is clobbering Coakley among independents and is consequently running neck and neck with her overall seven days out from the election (But see this poll for a rather different picture). Moreover, Brown raised an amazing $1 million yesterday alone toward his campaign.

If Brown should win he'll almost certainly vote against Obamacare in the Senate thus killing the legislation (Although the Democrats are not bereft of tricks up their sleeve to prevent that from happening should Brown win). Moreover, a GOP win in a state that hasn't had a Republican senator in decades, coming on the heels of Democrat retirements and defections in Congress and the huge losses in the governors' races in Virginia and New Jersey, will absolutely rock the American political scene. It'd be a tremendous blow to the Democrat party.

The Democrats will surely pull out all stops in order to mobilize their base, including a trip or two to Massachusetts by the President to get Democratic voters excited enough to turn out on the 19th. His entire presidency may well be riding on the outcome of that election.