Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Pakistan's Nuclear Weapons: Haven't I Refuted This Before?

Seymour Hersh has an article in The New Yorker asking the tired questions of whether Pakistan's nuclear weapons are safe from capture by al-Qaeda or the Taliban. He asserts that because militants have attacked well-defended Pakistani military facilities, other well-defended facilities, including nuclear locations, could be in danger.
If I'm not mistaken a well-defended U.S. military facility, Fort Hood, was just attacked by someone with insider knowledge of security and facilities, but that doesn't mean that anyone outside of Hollywood screenwriters think U.S. nuclear facilities are likely to be attacked or captured by militants. Indian Maoist naxalite militants have attacked government facilities, but no one worries publicly about the security of India's nuclear weapons. Hersh argues that components are most vulnerable when they are being moved. Hmm, you mean like when nuclear parts are accidentally flown across the country, or mistakenly delivered to Taiwan? Didn't the Secretary and Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force get fired for those mistakes not too long ago? Let's discuss reality here.
Once again, yes, Pakistan's government is unstable. President "Mr. Ten Percent" Zardari may well be forced out of office in the next six months, but that may well lead to increased stability in Pakistan, not less. The Pakistani military is considered a common player in Pakistani society and politics, and is perhaps the most stable element. The nuclear warheads are stored and secured separately from the triggers and the delivery systems, and the Pakistanis have developed extensive nuclear security systems.
If anything Pakistan seemed more unstable back in May, when the Taliban had famously crept within 90 miles of the capital, Islamabad. The New York Times ran a piece quoting various experts as saying the nuclear stockpile was safe. What has changed since then other than Sy Hersh decided this was a good sensational story to write? He dismisses all the expert opinions he finds that run contrary to his view, because "are Pakistan's nuclear weapons safe? Yes" would be a pretty boring article.
I imagine I or someone like me will have to refute some sensationalist account about terrorists and Pakistan's nuclear weapons every six months or so for at least several years to come. Of course it's a valid concern and one that should not be ignored, but it is also unlikely, and Pakistan should be given credit for protecting its arsenal.

1 comment:

  1. I commend your realistic approach. If Hersh and many other like him have picked up the references you made, they should feel sham for their biased approach about Pakistan. I would appreciate if people realistic enough like you should actually write about Pakistan efforts made for non-proliferation and safety and security. Once again I appreciate your efforts, keep it up.