This is an email I sent to a friend back on 10/14/2002. He was arguing that Saddam was close to having the Bomb and would then make Iraq a terrorist base – so we should invade.
Madness of Crowds:
Come on, you take that seriously? By that argument China is harboring anti-American terrorists right now. This is all horseshit. As far as I can tell, exactly nothing new has happened in Iraq concerning nukes. Most likely they are getting steadily farther away from having a nuclear weapon.. Look, back in 1990, they surprised people with their calutrons. No normal country would have made such an effort, because calutrons – mass spectrometers – are an incredibly inefficient way of making a nuclear weapon. We know just how inefficient they are, because E. O Lawrence conned the government into blowing about a quarter of the Manhattan Project budget on a similar effort. Concentrating enough U-235 for one small fission bomb cost hundreds of millions of 1944 dollars. Probably the Japanese could have constructed new cities for less money than this approach took to blow them up. By far the cheaper way is to enrich the uranium just enough to run a reactor and then breed plutonium. The Iraqis wanted U-235, probably because it is much easier to make a device with U-235 than with plutonium. You don’t have to use implosion and you don’t even have to test a gun-type bomb – we didn’t test the Hiroshima bomb. . I would guess that they realized their limitations – they’re not exactly overflowing with good physicists and engineers – and chose an approach that they could actually have made work. Implosion is not so easy to make work. India only got their implosion bomb to work on the seventh try, back in 1974, and they have a _hell_ of a lot more technical talent than Iraq.
Anyhow, Iraq doesn’t have the money to do it anymore (1). The total money going into his government is what, a fifth of what it used to be? (Jeez, quite a bit less than that, when you look carefully) Big non-private organizations tend to gradually slide towards zero output when the money merely stays the same: cut and they fire the worker bees and keep a few Powerpoint specialists. There is no reason to think that Arabs are immune to that kind of logic of bureaucracy. On the contrary. Not only are they not making any nuclear progress, they’re probably making regress.
At best, if we hadn’t interrupted them back in the Gulf War, they would have eventually had a couple. I doubt if it they even would have been an effective deterrent. It’s hard to make classic deterrence work when you have one or two bombs and the other guy has thousands, when he can hit you and you can’t hit him.
He would cause himself practical trouble by harboring anti-US terrorists. If they ever made a significant hit on the US, he’d be in deep shit. What would he get out of it? And I am supposed to think that he fears terrorist groups more than he fears a Trident boat?? He should appease _them_, rather than us? Look, if we really got mad, we could turn him and his entire nation into something that was no longer human. Kill them too, of course, but that’s too easy.
This particular argument is nonsense, even if he had a little deterrent. as are all the ones that I have seen floated by the Administration or by their hangers on and flacks. It’s not as crazy as the idea that we’re going to democratize Iraq, or Iraq and then the entire Arab world – that’s about as crazy as a human can get – but it makes no sense. Anyone with a brain knows, for example, that the last thing Israel wants is democratic Arab states, because they”d be _more_ hostile than the existing governments, and possibly stronger. . People like Mubarak understand that they can’t beat the IDF, and also understand who makes the deposits in their Swiss accounts: a new popular government might not. And a popular government might have some enthusiasm to draw on – Iran did, at first, after the fall of the Shah – whereas in places like Syria or Iraq > 70% of the population hates the government.
I know why Wolfowitz wants this, and why Bill Kristol wants this. I know that most Americans have decided that Iraq was somehow responsible for 9-11, because what else would explain the Administration’s desire to attack? And so they support an attack, which would make every kind of sense if Iraq _had_ been behind 9-11 Except that everyone knows that they didn’t have anything to do with it. The problem is, I don’t understand, even slightly, why Bush and Cheney want this.
(1) Almost all the oil sales (other than truck smuggling) go through the UN. 68% of that revenue is available for buying _approved_ imports. Mainly food and other things that we approve of. The US has a veto on such purchases. The total amount available for those approved purchases was something like 7 billion last year. Saddam is getting under-the-table payments of something like 20 cents a barrel from some or for all I know all of the buyers: but how much cash is that? we’re talking something like 1 or 2 % – no more than 100 million a year. Sheesh. Probably the truck smuggling accounts for more. Hmm.. That might be as much as a billion. Not much cash to run a government. . It’s a little hard to for me to see how he manages to keep the show on the road at all.