Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Thomas Berger's work

http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/thomas-bergers-egoless-fictions  You think that you don't know  Thomas Berger's  works,  but in fact you do,  he just don't know it.   Here is a short look at this amazing writer.

Iran: There is No Thrill, Like Overkill (2006)

George Bush has begun sabre rattling towards Iran. Sy Hersh has reported that the planning and logistics for an attack on Iran are advanced enough to occur at any time. There is also the question of where Iran is at producing a deterant. These, plus the same macro-economic problems which made an attack on Iraq necessary in 2003, are pushing America towards a confrontation with Iran over its atomic program. It is not, yet, at the irrevocable point. Part of what is going on is precisely what was mentioned before - sabre rattling to get pundit attention off of spygate, rising gas prices and other bleeding ulcers in the belly of Bush.
However, the point of no return is out there in the next six month, and it will be crossed, not with great fanfare, but, like the equator on a sailing ship, with a quiet notation in a log book.
A Short Primer on Deterrence
Deterrence is a simple concept: provoke in the enemy the fear of attacking. To deter is to create a credible perception in the mind of the opposite side, that attacking is more costly than not attacking, and to do so with a force that makes the opponent blot out the option in their own minds. Once this blind spot is created, then  other forces can work on the enemy to produce a favorable outcome. When attack becomes unthinkable, other options, no matter how unpalatable, become acceptable.
At the apex of the chain of deterrence are three powerful weapons: economic deterrence, where the cessation of economic intercourse would produce unthinkable damage, military deterrence, where deployable forces project sufficient power to make contrary actions painful enough to avoid, and strategic deterrence, which means weapons of mass destruction, and the survivable means to deliver them. Deterrence works until it does not. When an actor breaks through deterrent forces, and sees the potential for counter attack as discountable, it will act with an immediacy and a ferocity that is designed to shock the other side into submission. Economic and military deterrence have collapsed from time to time, but in the nuclear age, strategic deterrence has only been broken once - when China attacked the UN forces during the Korean war, estimating, correctly, that strategic deterrence did not apply to a conventional war of limited scope.
The apex of strategic deterrence is the triad of delivery: Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles, Strategic Bombers and short range submarine based missiles, combined with tactical capabilities and a survivable command and control system to order a coordinate an attack. However, beneath this apex there is a gradually escalating chain of deterrent capabilities that states have attempted to achieve, maintain and exploit. These lower tiers have proven to be insufficient deterrence on a number of occasions. In short there is no thrill, like overkill. Overkill relies on three components: the payload, the means of delivery, and the means of command and control.
Lower levels of deterrent capability involve substituting less expensive or less capable weapons in place of more capable ones for the warhead, means of delivery, and command and control.
Payloads
The top tier payload is the Multiple Independent Reentry Vehicle nuclear warhead. A thermonuclear device uses a fission device to set off hydrogen fusion, thus creating a much larger explosion. Beneath this is the atomic payload - a uranium or plutonium fission device. A thermo nuclear warhead is 50 times more destructive than an atomic device alone. Thus states with nuclear capability have far more ability to threaten large soft targets, such as cities, or super-hardened targets. They can also leverage their available highly enriched fissiles - so called "weapons grade" plutonium and uranium. Instead of needing a 50 kiloton uranium device - many smaller devices can be made, and used to trigger nuclear warheads, for greater flexibility at lower cost.
Chemical weapons, and aerosol petroleum payloads can produce localized effects that are comparable to atomic weapons, but they do not have the same strategic deterrent effect - because it is easier to harden targets against them, it is easier to move outside of their blast or effect radius, and they do not produce on going fatalities. Atomic radiation is the weapon that keeps on killing. To date there has not been the successful weaponization of the only competing fear payload - contagious, virulent and lethal biological weapons.
Means of Delivery
The Intercontinental Ballistic Missile and the Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile represent the most powerful strategic nuclear weapons. The first because of its remorseless ability to inflict staggering fatalities, the second because of the extremely short decision window that it creates. ICBMs give enough time to make a coordinated response, SLBMs give only moments to make a decision. The SLBM, while developed later, is now far less expensive to create and maintain, especially since there is a yet lower cost submarine strategic weapon, namely the tube launched cruise missile. Tube launched cruise missiles, capable of carrying atomic payloads of 10 kilotons are within reach of nations that will not have ICBM capability for decades. Many ordinary diesel electric submarines can be retrofitted to launch cruise missiles, so long as they fit into the relatively standard 533mm tube width.
Command and Control
An often overlooked component of strategic deterrence is command and control - the ability to plan, prepare, execute and improvise. Strategic deterrence requires planning, preparation and execution, and since strategic deterrence assumes the possibility of a massive first or preemptive strike, the ability to improvise in the execution of that plan. Nations without all four components have their strategic deterrence discounted, since it opens the possibility that a first strike would be successful. This first strike thinking breaks deterrence's most important weapon: unthinkability. China is currently worried that the US, by massive conventional means, could cripple it strategic system, and is engaged in a massive effort to create greater flexibility and survivability.
A Deterrent Force
The possession of atomic weapons, or an atomic weapon program is one level of deterrence. The next stage is being able to credibly deliver these payloads in a survivable manner.  Aircraft and artillery, while easy to reach weaponization of atomic payloads, are notoriously unsurvivable, particularly with small numbers of devices. Instead, mobile missile launchers are the next stage. After this comes intermediate range weapons and submarine based weapons. A crucial side path is the ability to take cruise missiles, and tube launch them, since it makes every Hunter-Killer submarine with sufficient avionics a potential strategic deterrent. Since these submarines are far more common than strategicly capable "Boomers", and have many other uses, this sideline is the shortest distance for a small state to have credible deterrence against a large state such as the USA. Three subs and some cruise missiles put both US coasts, as well as close allies, into play.
Iran as a Deterrent State
A state which possesses, or is thought likely to possess, a deterrent force can be termed "a deterrent state". Deterrent states do not necessarily have deterrent capabilities, but are thought to be able to acquire them more rapidly than a strategic threat could be mounted against them. In essence, if a state could acquire deterrence faster than its enemies could act against it, it has a measure of strategic deterrence. Since deterrence rests not only on the possession of payload, delivery and control - but on the perception of possession and the political will to use the deterrent should it come to that - states often begin generating the perception of political will, or covering that perception, before engaging in actual acquisition of a deterrent. Saddam Hussein engaged in a decade long attempt to create the perception of a deterrent, even though the objective facts did not support his having one.
Iran is a state with the need for deterrence, and with many of the individual components of deterrence. It has an ongoing atomic enrichment program, which may have produced enough fissiles to assemble devices. It has the design capacity to build and, as importantly, weaponize for missiles, these devices. While it is very far from having nuclerar capability, and thus from having the full range of strategic response, atomic capability is within its reach within 2 years.
As importantly, in the Summer of 2005, it reached agreement with Russia to modify its three877EKM "Kilo" class submarines to be able to fire Soviet designed cruise missiles. While many of these are designed for conventional targets, such as ships, there are variants which Iran has access to with 300km ranges, and the capability to carry 400kg payloads. This is sufficient, with Iran's capabilities, for a 10 kiloton, or sub-hiroshima size - atomic payload. The Chinese have recently created, and are rumored to be releasing for export, a variation that can be fired from the 533mm tubes of the Kilo class a cruise missile which has a range of 600km, and a larger payload. Advanced design and access to thermonuclear warheads would allow payloads with 700 kiloton strength, though these are a decade in Iran's future. Iran does not have the missile capable versions of this submarine, which could fire short range missiles.
Iran has also demonstrated the ability to train and produce units with independent leadership and initiative. This means that it is credible that an Iranian sub would be able to exercise its deterrent capabilities in the event of a first strike on Iran itself. Iran's ability to operate submarines out of its home waters has also been established. While Iran does not have access to facilities that would make it able to threaten the US mainland, it could threaten targets whose loss would be considered unacceptable to the US.
In short, Iran has the components to reach, sometime before 2010, the basic level of a deterrent force, and should be considered a deterrent state.
Response
To the ultra-hawk, any new deterrent state is a threat, and the achieving of deterrent force capability a crisis. However, this view is no longer tenable in light of America's full strategic commitment and lack of political will. The US has accepted India and Pakistan and deterrent states, and India currently possesses a deterrent force of submarines with cruise missiles capable of carrying atomic payloads. Should its thermonuclear program deliver within a reasonable time frame, it will become the first nation since China to achieve the thermonuclear deterrence level. Not far behind are the two China client states of North Korea and Pakistan. Pakistan has a deterrent force that includes intermediate range mobile missile launchers, and has built warheads which can be weaponized for them.
The political ramifications of Iran as a deterrent state with a deterrent force are not in the direction of a fear of an expansionist Iran. Unlike North Korea, the current regime has no demonstrated propensity to desire expanded territory. It does fund ideologically sympathetic groups, including state sponsored terrorism. However, the consequences for Iran of sponsoring atomic terrorism are such that it would not do so.
Instead, the consequences of Iran developing a deterrent force are two fold. The first is that it would be another proliferating nation. It has a demonstrated propensity to proliferate. Second, the US would no longer be able to deal with Iran as a non-nuclear nation. That is, American ability to threaten Iran would be sharply limited.
The potential responses are three: one can talk, one can bribe, or one can bomb. The possession of a deterrent force reduces the possibility of the third, so offensive preëmptive or preventative attacks are a wasting asset. This "use it or lose it pressure" is undoubtedly forcing the Bush executive to act precipitously. Bombing is already of limited value, because Iran has an economic deterrent - stop selling oil, and gain OPEC approval for an embargo on the US. The economic consequences of which would swiftly bring an end to any US regime that attempts to bomb without compelling reasons and substantial results. The current US administration does not have the first, and has a track record of not producing the second.
Bombing might also not produce a significant delay in Iran's coming into possession of a deterrent force. Iran could, if the threat level escalates high enough pull the fissiles from its exposed points, shield them, and assemble a deterrent force from the fissiles produced. It could then rebuild the reactor in a more survivable location, and become a declared power. All that bombing would do is generate hostility, and force Iran to declare earlier rather than later.
That is, because having a deterrent rests as much on means of delivery and command and control - both of which Iran is acquiring - as much as payloads, blocking access to atomic payloads temporarily does little, because it simply means that Iran will rebuild its atomic program in a safer place, while it pursues removing the two other bottlenecks to deterrent status. Bombing can delay the first Iranian atomic test, but it will not significantly delay the day that an Iranian flagged Kilo class submarine leaves port with nuclear teeth.
Talking has two parts: one is positive extension of friendship, the other is threats, and pressure from international bodies. So far both have proven to be of relatively limited value in dealing with Iran. It is not just the long term hostility towards the United States of the current regime - reciprocated in spades from Washington - but the general belief in Iran that the United States is on the run in Iraq and economically. Iran, as long as there are US forces in Iraq, has a response to any US threat - arm insurgents and radicalize Shia in Iraq. An Iraq that falls apart with US forces in it will deliver unacceptable casualties rapidly.
The third option is the most acceptable. Iran, unlike many other states, is not a top to bottom ideological state. In fact, the current regime holds power, to some extent, based on the threats from the United States. A secularizing Iran would, then see the possession of a deterrent force as necessary, but would see leveraging it as counter-productive. The best route for the United States is to undermine the ideological regime which is willing to pour vast resoures in pursuit of a strategic deterrent, when no such deterrent is seen as needed by the general population.
However, the high probability is that Bush will up the pressure, and use the cover that it is to give the European and Russian efforts more teeth, and then execute on threats at that point where there is domestic political advantage to be gained. That is, as with Iraq and the GWOT, he will double cross his allies in pursuit of his internal objectives in the United States.
As such, since bombing does not advance US long term interests significantly, and there is a regime in the United States with the demonstrated propensity of turning chronic problem into explosive crisis so that it can profit from the chaos and confusion, the only stance available to the US public and to allies is to be vocal in opposition to the use of military force against Iran unless certain bright lines are crossed. Because of the demonstrated propensity by the Bush executive to lie about when lines have been crossed, the body making this determination must be independent of the US, and spelled out emphatically each and every time a declaration is made to Iran to persuade it that there are consequences for failing to cooperate.
The compellence issue raises its head: given the fragile economic state of the West with respect to oil, many compellence options are off the table. Since compellence requires the ability to resist any counterstrike from the compelled, US policy makers must begin to realize that re-establishing the basic conditions of compellence, as soon as possible, are an urgent necessity, not a luxury. These include terminating involvement in Iraq, moving the US economy off of energy dependence for its monetary basis, and re-establishing credibility in the integrity of its international diplomacy.
Iran is not a threat, and on the other hand it is. That is Iran does not yet possess a deterrent force, but the point where it can be prevented from acquiring one is rapidly closing in. While Iran will not deploy a credible deterrent for at least three years, the point where it cannot be prevented from doing so is coming up within the next 12 months, and may already have been passed.
The Bush executive will want to act before the realization of the point of no return has sunk in with global policy makers and the public. As soon as the inevitability of a deterrent force Iran is accepted, there will be no political will to create animosity towards a future deterrent state. The time there will be sufficient "proof" to launch strikes is, paradoxically, the point after which Iran cannot be stopped from reaching DFC - deterrent force capability. In short, Bush will wait through the rest of 2006, and only being escalating pressure on Iran militarily in the latter half of the year, when it is useful politically, and act in 2007, when he needs both the access to liquidity in the form of defense appropriations, and the political cover for domestic objectives such as funnelling FICA taxes into the stock market.

Therefore there is no reason to attack the Persian Empire,  there is much more to gain by attacking Iraq,  and leave Iran as a counter play.  Sorry Sy,  they are not going to take  Iran while there is still so much time to spend in Iraq.

Astagal back in print

"Upon completing Albertine Sarrazin’s Astragal I was left to wonder why it ever fell from print. Aside from the location, Astragal could pass as the great American novel. Its edginess and rawness capture the angst and desires we all had in our 20s, while still bearing a literary feel that is more thought provoking than The Catcher in the Rye. Perhaps this is why Patti Smith, as described in the introduction, carried around the work in her travels for so many years."
 the introduction is  terrible,  but don't let that stop you from reading the novel,  which is as good,  or better,  than Catcher in the Rye.

Wolf down

http://wolfstreet.com/2014/07/30/how-fracking-is-blowing-up-balance-sheets-of-oil-and-gas-companies/  the Between oil and money is staying wide... read rest,  it is interesting to say the least...

the Democratic party now joins with the Communist party in Russia....

We look back on elder days, and perhaps the reflect on how much we have changed, and yet not changed at all. We look back at Mark Twain, and see how every thing that could be expressed came down to one redeeming feature: race. Then as now, seemed everything could be boiled down to this one feature. But that is not really the case, because sex has thrown up its ugly head. And then gender has reared up its ugly head as well. But there is only one thing that is truly different about other people, and that is that it is not other people, but ourselves. People in ancient Egypt did not care about race, look at their obelisks. But they did have differences that we would not notice, and care each other down by them, just as race is not an issue for another time, though it is an issue for us. Just as sex is for us. As orientation has reentered its ugly head for us.

This means that race, sex, orientation, in every other thing that you can name, is really about this difference. Some now call it the other, to differentiated it from what defines us as being a part. But that is not truly what it is, because in the distance, we know, we fear, we tremble, that it is not them but we, are different. Though we do not want to see it. This difference is that we know that underneath the skin, we are not the same as other people, even if we look just like them. That is what we fear the most: that through no fault of our own, we have of stain running through our bones, sustain which if anyone were to see it, would tremble our very nature, and remove us from the company of good graces. Thus we say race, or gender, or sex, because these things can be differentiated, and quantified, and assures that we are not different as we appear. But in footsteps, we know that it is not race, or gender, or sex, or any thing we can name. Instead it is crawling in our guts, the unnameable thing, that makes us different, or makes someone else different if only we could find it. A treason, a flaw, something that makes us different, or makes them different from us.

This is why we truly hold and collection, to banish out, that staining that we know that we can find if only we look for it. Because we will know it when we find it, because it's only us, only us that we can tell.

That is why we must clear the field, and make it so that only one candidate can run. Because that candidate is pure and pristine, even if it means that all other candidates have been cleared from the field. Because the one clean candidate means that there are dozens of dirty candidates, which we should not exposed to. It would be wrong. It would be impure.


And if you believe that, as the saying goes, you can believe anything that you want. Because who has heard of a candidate with only one person running? Oh the Communist party in the former Soviet union, and now the Democratic party in New York.

1815