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It's about goddamn time: this article in the Post finally takes a realistic look at the true threat of al-Qaeda acquiring nuclear weapons.  And, as any scientist familiar with the elements of nuclear weapons could tell you:

While the technology is relatively simple and has been described in dozens of published scientific studies and policy journals, the path to development is filled with technological and logistical challenges -- the most significant of which is obtaining at least 50 kilograms of bomb-grade uranium.

To put this in perspective, for the US to enrich even close to enough uranium to make a 1940's gun-style nuke still requires a massive complex at Oak Ridge and elsewhere.

The article goes on to point out that arming a nuke is distinctly harder than figuring out how to unlock someone's cell phone - a key premise of most of the "terrorists with nukes" fear-mongering.  Are we at last seeing a ray of hope of a fact-based foreign policy debate?

Not necessarily.  To see John Bolton say:
"I would say that from the perspective of terrorism, the overwhelming bulk of the evidence we have is that their efforts are focused on biological and chemical ... Not to say there aren't any dealings with radiological materials, but the technology for bio and chem is comparatively so much easier that that's where their efforts are concentrating."

is deeply disturbing, and it makes me think that this is the first step in Bush declaring victory in Iraq, a la:
"By defeating that mean ole Saddam, we've secured the nukular weapons, so al-Qaeda is no longer a threat.  This means we were right not to chase bin Laden.  Hurray for freedom!"

A deceptive end to a fabricated threat would be totally fitting.

We can gain a distinct advantage here, but only if we can make the lie stick in the neo-craw.  The reality-based community agrees broadly that on a longer time scale the exact reverse of the above statement is true:  the rise of al-Qaeda was greatly aided by failed states, and one of the surest ways to create a failed state is a massive military intervention (either direct or by proxy) followed by abandonment.  Which, unless a miracle happens on January 30th or in the subsequent months, appears to be exactly where we are headed - effectively a borrowing of time on counterterrorism.

So what we do now?  Any media coverage calling the terrorist WMD threat into question presents a nice opportunity to call into question the Iraq war's guiding principles and more broadly, Bush's foreign policy.  Up to now, though, almost every attempt to stop or even slow the neocons' war on the basis of overwhelming factual shortcomings has failed miserably.  The public has just not been that interested in the policy details of the war, but has been interested in doling out an ass-kicking.  Is there any way we can attract their attention for long enough to reframe the debate?  Anyone have any good ideas on how?  And what will we say if we can open up this opportunity?  I sure hope that efforts to create and communicate a national security message bear fruit soon.

Originally posted to electroniceric on Wed Dec 29, 2004 at 08:09 AM PST.

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