Posts from April, 2008

Russian Nuclear Missile Submarine Patrols Decrease Again

By Hans M. Kristensen

The number of deterrence patrols conducted by Russia’s 11 nuclear-powered ballistic missiles submarines (SSBNs) decreased to only three in 2007 from five in 2006, according to our latest Nuclear Notebook published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

In comparison, U.S. SSBNs conducted 54 patrols in 2007, more than three times as many as all the other nuclear weapon states combined.

The low Russian patrol number continues the sharp decline from the Cold War; no patrols at all were conducted in 2002 (see Figure 1). The new practice indicates that Russia no longer maintains a continuous SSBN patrol posture like that of the United States, Britain, and France, but instead has shifted to a new posture where it occasionally deploys an SSBN for training purposes.

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New Chinese SSBN Deploys to Hainan Island

By Hans M. Kristensen

The Chinese navy has deployed a Jin-class (Type 094) ballistic missile submarine to a new base near Yulin on Hainan Island on the South China Sea, according to a satellite image obtained by FAS. The image shows the submarine moored at a pier close to a large sea-entrance to an underground facility.

Also visible is a unique newly constructed pier that appears to be a demagnetization facility for submarines.

A dozen tunnels to underground facilities are visible throughout the base compound.

The satellite image, which has also been described in Jane’s Defense Weekly, was taken by the QuickBird satellite on February 27, 2008, and purchased by FAS from DigitalGlobe.

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The Good Old Days: The military budget is out of control

The military budget is out of control. Not in the sense of the mantra of “waste, fraud, and abuse.” That is, in fact, a tiny slice of the enormous U.S. military spending. No, the budget is out of control in the sense that spending on the military is no longer subject to meaningful political review. The Pentagon has slipped its leash and Congress is not asking questions.

Congress is currently considering President Bush’s proposed budget, which included $515 billion for the military and separate requests for tens of billions more for intelligence and nuclear weapons and, on top of that, separate requests of over a hundred billion can be expected to cover the operating costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is more than we spent on the military during the height of the Cold War, even accounting for inflation. The president is constantly reminding us of how dangerous the world is and, of course, the threats to American security are all too real. But using the threats faced by the US today to justify Cold War-level budgets is possible only if we have near total amnesia about what the threat during the Cold War really was.

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Ben Stein Is Very, Very Wrong: Problems with Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed

Wolfgang Pauli is a legendary figure among physicists. He is remembered for having both one of the greatest minds of the twentieth century and one of its sharpest tongues. One student’s paper he dismissed by saying: That’s not right; it isn’t even wrong. (Or words to that effect in German; Pauli was Viennese.) If a theory isn’t relevant to the facts at hand, if it can’t be tested, if it doesn’t advance our understanding, then it isn’t that the theory is not right, it’s not even really a theory, it isn’t even wrong. It simply isn’t a tool for scientific understanding. Congressman Rush Holt once used Pauli’s expression in response to the claims that creationism, now often called Intelligent Design (ID), could be an “alternative” to the theory of evolution. Creationism isn’t even wrong because creationism can’t explain anything in the sense that science understands the word “explain.” Most advocates of creationism accept that evolution works at some scale and explains some things but for anything evolution does not explain they then assert that God, the Intelligent Designer, simply made it so. This is a valid religious belief. But what is the testable hypothesis? What is the prediction? What is the deeper understanding of mechanism? There isn’t anything there for a scientist to grab hold of. As far as science is concerned, creationism isn’t even wrong.

In contrast, Ben Stein has just released a movie, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, that is very, very wrong, indeed. (I confess, I have not seen the movie yet. It opens later today. This essay is based on Ben Stein’s extensive interviews, the movie website, and an extended, nine minute trailer available on the website. I will see the movie this weekend, although it pains me to give him any of my money.) I won’t argue about creationism here; it has been discussed in depth elsewhere. That “Intelligent Design” is a phrase designed in a transparent attempt to teach creationism without using the word “creationism” is well established. Ben Stein’s charges of unethical suppression of creationist spokesmen has been repudiated. But what is so very wrong about Ben Stein’s movie is not just the science; what I want to discuss here is his portrayal of how science works.

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FAS Launches Online Chemical Weapons Convention Archive to Mark 2nd Review Conference

FAS just launched an online compilation of more than 500 documents on the US ratification of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). The Archive (http://fas.org/blog/cw) includes a timeline of CWC negotiations, a history of its signing and ratification, and current news and commentary on the CWC.

In addition to the documents, Cheryl Vos, FAS Biology Research Associate, will report daily from The Hague during the Second Review Conference, 7 – 18 April 2008, on the proceedings, plenary sessions and open forum.

cheney letterThe online archive’s “Document of the Day” feature will kick off with a letter submitted by former Secretary of Defense and current Vice President Dick Cheney to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The letter expresses Cheney’s deep opposition to U.S. ratification of the Chemical Weapons Convention and was read into the record by former Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger who, along with fellow former Secretaries of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Caspar Weinberger, was present at the Committee hearing to provide testimony against the CWC. http://fas.org/cw/cwc_archive/cheneyletter_4-8-97.pdf

The CWC entered into force on April 29, 1997. The archive highlights accomplishments over the past 11 years, and arguments made for and against US ratification in Congress.

Many of the letters, petitions and reports have not been previously available online.

Visit the Chemical Weapons Convention Archive at http://fas.org/blog/cw/.