Saheli*: Musings and Observations
Thursday, September 16, 2004
 
Nuclear Safety

There was a time in this country when fighting nuclear threats was a fairly nonpartisan and politically popular thing to do. One might naively have thought that this was because American people and American politicans, while sometimes deaf to minor and medium problems, could rise to the occasion when facing an issue with catastrophic implications. I am now convinced it was actually because we love to have fairly simplistic problems to deal with--one huge enemy in the USSR, and one simple policy of mutually-assured destruction that we could throw a large amounts of cash at without thinking too hard. The kind of cash and effort we threw at that problem--building NORAD, lots of bombs, and a system to track incoming missiles and respond in kind--was a quintessentially suit-and-tie way of dealing with the problem. Money and power were concentrated in a few agencies, the need for cooperation and subtle and continuous policy was minimized, the public was little educated about the process, and accountability was fairly low.

Today we face much messier nuclear threat. It is not as massive--no amount of Al Quaeda wishful thinking and clever scheming is going to acquire the capacity to physically destroy the United States. But it is also more probable--the USSR didn't actually want to destroy us, and they knew that it was all or nothing with them--there was no such thing as a little nuclear scratch. Al Quaeda and its spawn and brethren would love to get their hands on dirty bombs and attack its enemies--including us. You would think there would be no clearer clarion call or higher priority for an administration and its attendant house and congress, obsessed as they are with mentioning 9/11. You would think that a government that went to war half way around the world on the merest whiff of a bearly plausible nuclear threat would rush funding to protect its cities from smaller fry. You would be wrong.

This spring I heard a bone-chilling presentation from Joseph Cirincione of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace about the multitude of possible sources that an organization like Al Quaeda could try and grab nuclear material from. Last week he wrote of the miniscule funding the Bush Administration has given to preventing such thefts. Inspired by this report from the Center for American Progress, on Monday Matthew Yglesias wrote this excellent column, "Isn't It Ironic?," for the American Prospect:

So nuclear terrorism is the ultimate threat, but not so ultimate that it's worth spending money on preventing, inconveniencing the Navy, or overcoming the Bush admnistration's knee-jerk prejudice against treaties. We did, however, find $200 billion to invade Iraq with, over $500 billion for a Medicare prescription drug benefit, and almost $2 trillion worth of tax cuts. It's sort of like 10,000 spoons when all you need is a knife. Or meeting the arms control treaty of your dreams and then undermining it for no good reason.

If you look at the Department of Homeland Security's homepage, there are three measly links on the Emergency Preparedness & Response component page. As Fred Kaplan noted in this Slate article, the Department of Homeland Security wanted to eliminate the Metropolitan Medical Response System, which trains first responders in urban centers to deal with emergencies like a dirty bomb attack. Congress saved the program (pdf of a press release from Rep. Ed Markey, D-MA), but one wonders why Secretary Tom ridge didn't want to increase funding for such an important program.

Yet still the president chases the pipe-dream of missile defense, with what Maureen Dowd recently called "an obsession worthy of literature.". The administration would rather continue pouring money into the secretive and monolithic corporations of the defense industry than go through the trouble of carefully funding firefighters and policeman in dozens of needy cities. It would be helpful if he explained this set of priorities and values instead of extolling his own virtue for giving out hugs at memorial services.
 


<< Home
Saheli Datta started this when she was a journalism student at Columbia in New York. Now she lives in the Bay Area. *Old people call me R. New people, call me Saheli. Thanks! My homepage. Specifically, my links. Email me: Saheli [AT] Gmail [dot] Com

ATOM FEED



Spring 2006: Guest Bloggers!
Colin!
Rishi | Scott | Emily
Echan | Robert | ToastyKen

MAIN:ssrdatta.blogspot.com
Email me!
Ways to help the Tsunami Victims Here

Want this badge?

ARCHIVES
01/01/2003 - 02/01/2003 / 09/01/2003 - 10/01/2003 / 10/01/2003 - 11/01/2003 / 11/01/2003 - 12/01/2003 / 12/01/2003 - 01/01/2004 / 01/01/2004 - 02/01/2004 / 02/01/2004 - 03/01/2004 / 03/01/2004 - 04/01/2004 / 04/01/2004 - 05/01/2004 / 05/01/2004 - 06/01/2004 / 06/01/2004 - 07/01/2004 / 07/01/2004 - 08/01/2004 / 08/01/2004 - 09/01/2004 / 09/01/2004 - 10/01/2004 / 10/01/2004 - 11/01/2004 / 11/01/2004 - 12/01/2004 / 12/01/2004 - 01/01/2005 / 01/01/2005 - 02/01/2005 / 02/01/2005 - 03/01/2005 / 03/01/2005 - 04/01/2005 / 04/01/2005 - 05/01/2005 / 05/01/2005 - 06/01/2005 / 06/01/2005 - 07/01/2005 / 07/01/2005 - 08/01/2005 / 08/01/2005 - 09/01/2005 / 09/01/2005 - 10/01/2005 / 10/01/2005 - 11/01/2005 / 11/01/2005 - 12/01/2005 / 12/01/2005 - 01/01/2006 / 01/01/2006 - 02/01/2006 / 02/01/2006 - 03/01/2006 / 03/01/2006 - 04/01/2006 / 04/01/2006 - 05/01/2006 / 05/01/2006 - 06/01/2006 / 06/01/2006 - 07/01/2006 / 07/01/2006 - 08/01/2006 / 08/01/2006 - 09/01/2006 / 09/01/2006 - 10/01/2006 / 10/01/2006 - 11/01/2006 / 05/01/2010 - 06/01/2010 / 09/01/2014 - 10/01/2014 /


Blogs I Read (Or Try To)
113th Street
american footprints(Nadezhda & Praktike)
ANNA's Diary
Apartment Therapy
Armchair Generalist
Back To Iraq 3.0 (Chris Albritton)
Dave Barry
The Bellman
Mine's On The 45 (Brimful)
Campaign Desk (CJR)
ChennaiCentral
ClimateBoy
Combing the Sphere
Crooked Timber
Daily Dose of Imagery
The Daily Rhino (Bong Breaker)
Dark Days Ahead
The Decembrist
Brad DeLong
Atanu Dey on India's Development (Deeshaa)
Daniel Drezner
Ennis
Ephemera
Cyrus Farivar
Finding My Voice
Forsv
Neil Gaiman
Ganesh Blog
Geeky Chic 2.0 (Echan)
Geomblog
Green Ink!
Heliolith
Alexandra Huddleston
Iddybud (Jude Nagurney Camwell)
Indeterminacy
India Uncut
InSpiteOfEverything
Intel Dump: Phillip Carter et al
The Intersection (Chris Mooney)
Jesus Politics
John and Belle Have a Blog
Mark A. R. Kleiman
KnowProse (Taran Rampersad)
1Locana
Maenad (Nori Heikkinen)
Scott McCloud
Mind Without Borders
Electrolite: Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden
Corey Pein
Political Animal(Kevin Drum, formerly Calpundit)
Kevin G. Powell
QuakeHelp (South Asian Quake)
Radiation Persuasion (Nick)
Reneebop
Rhinocrisy
Scott Rosenberg(Salon.com)
Rox Populi
Felix(&Rhian)Salmon
samVaad
Nick Schager
Idea Spout: Daniel Sanchez
Sepia Mutiny
Amardeep Singh
Snarkmarket (Robin Sloan & Matt Thompson)
South-East Asian Earthquake and Tsunami Blog
SreeTips: New To Sree
Steprous (Bear)
Robert Stribley
Subjunctive.net:klog
Talking Points Memo: Joshua Micah Marshall
Tech Policy
TiffinBox
A Tiny Revolution
To The Teeth
TreeHugger
Unfogged
VatulBlog
Venk@
Manish Vij
Vinod's Blog
War and Piece
Nollind Whachell
Wonkette
WorldChanging
Matthew Yglesias:Old
Yglesias:Tpmcafe
Zoo Station:Reuben Abraham
Ethan Zuckerman
Zwichenzug



Some Categories

Blogs focusing on policy, politics, and national security:
Armchair Generalist
Back To Iraq 3.0 (Chris Albritton)
The Decembrist
Brad DeLong
Daniel Drezner
Eschaton(Atrios)
Green Ink!
Iddybud (Jude Nagurney Camwell)
Idea Spout: Daniel Sanchez
Informed Comment: Juan Cole
Intel Dump: Phillip Carter
The Intersection (Chris Mooney)
Irregular Analyses
Jesus Politics
Mark A. R. Kleiman
Liberals Against Terrorism(Nadezhda & Praktike)
Political Animal(Kevin Drum, formerly Calpundit)
Talking Points Memo: Joshua Micah Marshall
War and Piece
Wonkette
Yglesias:Tpmcafe

Photo Blogs
Daily Dose of Imagery
Ephemera
Alexandra Huddleston
Radiation Persuasion (Nick)
TiffinBox

Columbia Journalism Folks
Apartment Therapy
Back To Iraq 3.0 (Chris Albritton)
Campaign Desk (CJR)
Ranajit Dam
Cyrus Farivar
Alexandra Huddleston
InSpiteOfEverything
Corey Pein
Nick Schager
Zoo Station:Reuben Abraham

Literature, Fiction and Entertainment
Dave Barry
Neil Gaiman
Electrolite: Patrick Nielsen Hayden
Scott McCloud


A Note on Comments
Haloscan is not very good at counting comments. If a comment thread is more than three months old, and you think there might be comments, please click the comments link even if it indicates zero comments. It won't display the true count properly. Thanks!


A note on permalinks
I find that a lot of people don't know about permalinks. When you want to have someone read a specific blog entry, then you should find that blog entry's permalink, click on that, and send them the resulting browser address. Otherwise they will just be sent to the blog in general, and between your reading the blog entry and your correspondent's or audience's getting to it, a whole slew of material may have pushed the entry off the front page. In this blog, the permalinks are the timestamp at the end of the entry. (Feel free to frequently send your friends and family permalinks from my blog!)







Weblog Commenting and Trackback by 
HaloScan.com Powered by Blogger