December 16, 2011 | 

Normally it is articles or letters to which one responds, but this time it is the International Herald Tribune’s excellent 12-12-11 cartoon, to which I respond with another cartoon, drawn for me by my friend Jim Matthews.

The original cartoon showed politicians as puppets, dangled from sticks held out the winows of office blocks labelled ‘financial markets’. My feeling is this loss of democratic control has created grassroots reactions – Occupy Wall St., 99%, the Arab uprisings, recent protests in Moscow, in Mumbai, in China – are all emerging from the same soil. Here are signs of a kind of human mycelium, its connective ‘network’ the social internet (Facebook, Twitter, etc.).

This is offered under a Creative Commons License: Non Commercial, Share Alike.

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November 18, 2011 | Haiku - November 2011

The sun rises: contrails -
pink, gold, chalk-white – twisted and smudged
by winds unseen

Sky pale: staircases
Of cloud – white contrails spread
Like smoke: dark grey

I remember when
an afternoon carried on and on –
time for a lifetime

Soaring – the gull
is meditation in flight
above Central London

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November 18, 2011 | Missile Defence

Missile Defence and NATO commitments.

NATO has undertaken to back – and significantly fund – US plans for Missile Defence in Europe. This would be both hugely expensive, and politically (fierce Russian opposition) and strategically (a new arms race) counter-productive. Moreover the whole programme involves a global system: elements in Europe, in the Middle East, in the Gulf, in the Far East, perhaps in India.
Do we want to be part of such folly?

The underpinning logic for MDs is
1. that deterrence can no longer be considered effective;
2. that missile threats have been identified;
3. that missile defences would be cost-effective;
4. that they could be subject to actual human control –
they could not – they have to operate automatically.
5. that the contents of the warheads would not be released

and, above all,

6. that missile defence technology is such that it could
be confidently relied upon to work, invulnerably, at
100% – the possibility of even one nuclear warhead
getting through is not possibly acceptable. It is only in the
advertisements that optimism is stated as experience.

This is one of the great fields of the Military-Industrial Complex – cum – Scientific Bureaucratic Elite’s most successful and pernicious enthusiasm…

Mitt Romney has declared that as President, he would reinstate all the Missile Defence funding that has been cut; along with restoring US global top doggery, military and economic; acting with the UN and international law only when it’s in the US interest; and re-emphasising the special relationship with the UK – we do house, but not control, a number of useful US bases.

President Obama and Mr Clinton have both been telling the world that American policy will now be Pacific- rather than Atlantic-oriented: where will we be? The map tells us we are part of Europe.

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November 18, 2011 | Proliferation

Letter to an official – 24-10-11

I am not at all IN FAVOUR of proliferation, but I am sorely alarmed at the now quite immediate dangers that ANTI-PROLIFERATION is presenting – even worse now both the President and the Secretary of State have been giving credence to this latest (presumably CIA? charade. With the CIA now in charge at the Pentagon, God will have a busy time helping us.)

If we wanted a nuclear-free Middle East, we – but above all the Americans – would have reined in Israel long ago. And as we should have if we were properly serious about the NPT. (Alarming about Dr Fox’s Israeli connexions.)

In the present situation, now exacerbated by Iron Dome, etc., how could Iran not seek to develop at least a capability…Would you not, as adviser to an Iranian government, have said, go on, Sir; at least show we can – we can’t just let them put on the table a first strike capability,(complete with US Bunker-busters), plus a multi-layer missile defence system (produced at American expense), plus the targeted killings, plus their joint cyberwar activity? I would have.

And I don’t like the idea of Israel becoming a cyber-superpower, as they say they hope to: worse than nuclear weapons, because they are useable…

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September 15, 2011 | Haikus July-Sept 2011


Birds fly in groups.
What is their motivation?
Do they want the South?
the North? the fun?
The exercise?


Do I distinguish
“I” and “me” from one another? If so,
how do I start?


Watch – the world is turning!
Or is it clouds – cloudscapes – blowing – giving
impressions of God?


In the US, company big wigs
receive “compensation!” For what
are they being compensated?


Window raindrops slide
wind-blown a little; walking, intentionally,
up: a fly

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September 15, 2011 | Letters March - June 2011

Letter to DefenseNews [published]

Uzi Rubin (“Iran’s Steady March to Global Missile Clout” – DefenseNews August 15th) wonders why Iran is demonstrating “candor” regarding its new missile capabilities. Alarming to think that as a “consultant” he doesn’t know perfectly well.

Israel has had a nuclear capability for decades, sports a multilayer missile defence system, and now regularly issues threats to take out what it declares are Iran’s intended nuclear weapon facilities.

Just as Israel has deployed strong offensive forces, their use now protected by missile defences, so, quite naturally, indeed inevitably, Iran is responding to those actual threats with a deterrent build-up.

Can Mr Rubin really be surprised?

Those promoting policies need to understand the likely responses. Christain Le Miere’s article, “Can ASEAN Ease Tensions With China, on same page: these “tensions” will hardly be reduced by the new deployment of American “stealth” warships there: think of an American reaction to the unannounced arrival of Chinese warships to be stationed in the Gulf of Mexico…


Letter to IHT [not published]

Iran’s nuclear ambitions – letter – Monday June 20th 2011

Would an Iranian “minimum nuclear deterrent” really be a “threat” to Israel? Israel has a rather more than “minimum nuclear deterrent” and in “Iron Dome” a missile defence system: mutual deterrence would operate.

“Mutual assured deterrence” was what stabilised the US-SU relationship in the days of the Cold War and it would stabilise the nuclear weapons situation in the Middle East.

Yes, the Iranians deny the Holocaust; the Israelis deny the Palestinians’ removal from their country and its occupation: both are facts of history. Israel receives vast funding from the United States. A proper return for that support would be an agreement – a settlement – with the Palestinians. Bin Ladin’s explanation for the attack on the Twin Towers was the wrongs being done to the Palestinians, and most Muslims recognised that. It is still the prime motive for Muslim anti-Americanism.


Letter to Sunday Times [not published]

Dominic Lawson was extolling the medical benefits of male circumcision –“The little cut stirring a war over boys’ rights” [Sunday Times 05-06-11] but he didn’t consider the possible psychological disbenefits.

Some 30-40 years ago, over 80% of American boys were being circumcised at eight days, in hospital, without anaesthetic, by strangers, and screaming their heads off.

I can’t help wondering if this experience may not account for a degree of paranoia in American politics – and, frankly, in Israeli and in some Muslim politics too.


Letter unsent

The turn-out in last year’s mid-term elections was 42%.

That means that 58% of American electors didn’t feel strongly enough to vote either for or against the President.

This was no appeal to the Republicans to shut down the Government.



Very interesting piece by Jessica Hamzelou (in the New Scientist) about psychopaths whose “brain areas involved in reward processing” swell. What about Bankers’ brains? Do they show up “larger than normal” in the relevant areas when bonuses arrive?


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September 15, 2011 | Whither Deterrence?

Letter to the Editor of Survival [publication of the International Institute for Strategic Studies]
Published in the August-September 2011 issue

Whither Deterrence?

James M. Acton’s Adelphi Book Deterrence During Disarmament: Deep Nuclear Reductions and International Security, published earlier this year by the IISS, convincingly addresses the topics mentioned in the title. But, and it is a substantial but, he addresses them in something of a vacuum – in the world of a fast receding ‘today’. The future of war is ambiguous and uncertain. Acton failed to examine comprehensively two accelerating developments: missile defences and cyber.
Because ballistic missile defences can contribute to an offensive posture, their spread will be destabilising. You strike your presumed opponent’s deterrent force pre-emptively, thus depleting his retaliatory capacity, with which your missile defences will be more likely able to cope. (This, more or less explicitly, is the purpose of Israel’s Iron Dome, among other systems). Your opponent, in order to restore the effectiveness of his deterrent, can and probably will respond (as Philip Coyle was pointing out in 2009) by building more offensive missiles, using decoys and countermeasures to fool the defences, and preparing to attack in ways that ballistic missiles are not designed to handle.
So, in practice, the deployment of missile defences promotes new arms races, encourages nuclear proliferation and damages international stability, as the Chinese, among others, have been pointing out. This may well be an agreeable prospect for what President Dwight Eisenhower described as the military–industrial complex, but not for the world’s taxpayers. (The IISS Military Balance 2011 [right? or 2010?] tells us that global defence expenditure in 2009 came to $1,452,283 million, or $214 per capita; with US per capita expenditure at $2,153.)
The other, and more significant, development Acton devotes insufficient space to is cyber, and whatever that concept may include and affect. At present, there seems to be little that it will not, and surprise is one of its essential characteristics.
As James Farwell and Rafal Rohozinski showed in their article, ‘Stuxnet and the Future of Cyber War’ in the February–March 2011 issue of Survival, the use of a ‘worm’ as a de facto weapon against an opponent will likely have unexpected and probably unintended side effects. But the crucial question is, who or what is this ‘opponent’ who attacked you? Against whom, within a state or outside, will cyber threats be mounted, or executed, and by whom? Will private military companies develop a capability others may anonymously ‘rent’, making attribution even more problematic? And what might all-out cyber war amount to? Perhaps displaying the possibilities of cyber activity is itself a form of deterrence, but against what?
Last year, Lynn had opined that the nation’s historic inability to predict who or where it must fight meant the military had to develop ‘a portfolio of capabilities’ that could span the spectrum of conflicts, from the current ‘low-end’ fights to possible ‘high-end’ wars with near-peer competitors (presumably he meant China, and perhaps still Russia).
Clearly the whole infrastructure of developed countries – transport, power, defence, water, financial systems, and so on – is vulnerable, and the United States, among others, has been considering how to deter attacks on it. Attacks on US infrastructure would, according to US Deputy Secretary of Defense William J. Lynn III recently, be seen as ‘acts of war’, to be met with a military response. ‘All appropriate options would be on the table’, he said, without defining ‘appropriate’.
But a response against whom? Ballistic missiles ‘have return addresses’, Coyle reminds us; cyber does not. So suspicion against cyber has to be universal: are one’s own weapon systems safe? Might cyber bugs be emplanted in them? Is Britain’s Trident system clean? The rustle in the grass may be the breeze or it may be a snake.
If a cyber attack turns out to be by one American defence-related corporation on another, what then? Was Sony’s recent experience a warning to other corporations? Was Lockheed’s? What of the IMF’s?
The dynamism of the global cyber effort may be seen as a warning of what is now possible if animosity or aggression (or even tactlessness, such as unannounced warships in nearby waters) is carried too far.
Above all, what effect will cyber have on relations between the major nuclear powers, and indeed between them and the nuclear minnows? What effect on national strategies? Already the United States is moving towards targeted killings and unmanned vehicles and private military contractors and now cyber war, all asymmetric practices, outside traditional warfare and the internationally recognised Laws of War.
‘Our largest fear … is the zero day attack’, Sherrill Nicely, the CIA’s deputy chief information officer, told Reuters on 17 June. ‘It’s very, very, very difficult to protect oneself from an attack that you did not know was coming on the vulnerability that you did not know existed.’
In such a world, where does nuclear deterrence function?

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September 15, 2011 | Letter to Tim Yeo re- the National Planning Policy Framework

5th September 2011

Dear Mr Yeo,

The NPPF is something of a dog’s breakfast at present.

My interest in it derives, I suppose, from my husband’s role in revising and devising Planning Law in the 1960s when he was a Junior Minister in the Ministry of Housing and Local Government.

As well as it being something – only something – of a developer’s dream, among the ECONOMIC BENEFITS the NPPF purportedly aims to promote, it fails to mention one of England’s most successful industries – TOURISM.

This brought us £17.17 billion from foreign tourists in the 12 months to June 2011 – up from £16.57 billion in the 12 months to June 2010 (This in turn had been up from some £13 billion back in 1999.) Including Domestic day tourism, Tourism represents some 6% of our GDP.

Our other industries – manufacturing, mining, even ship-building and shipping – are dying or dead; finance is a mess that needs regulating; etc., etc…

Tourism is one of the world’s major industries – 11% of global GDP – and growing.

Tourists come to England – and will continue to come – for several reasons, which of course include our wonderfully varied COUNTRYSIDE and our HERITAGE of historical buildings and structures. All of these we should be protecting, not dismissing as some mere back cloth to a local infrastructure, to be exploited and destroyed without much thought beyond the local and the immediate.

Another reason tourists come is the ENGLISH LANGUAGE now the GLOBAL LANGUAGE (including the Language of Science). Most tourists speak, or want to speak, or to learn English. And it is the English version of English that is preferred to any of the American or other versions.

This will not change, and the promotion of the language the Empire usefully spread throughout the world should be there, lively, in all our national policies.

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May 30, 2011 | Poem – “time scale”

“What is your time-scale?”
The Queen’s is “till my death”,
David Cameron’s “till Nick Clegg drops out”,
or “until 2014”…

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May 30, 2011 | Letter to Defense News - 27th May 2011

In your leading article – SIZING UP THE FUTURE – May 23, 2011 – you write of “high-end forces needed [by the US] to fight against a sophisticated nation-state like China”.

Surely no-one in the US is contemplating fighting a war “against a sophisticated nation-state like China”?

It took the Soviet Union and the United States some two decades to realise war between them would be the end of each of them (and of their allies as well) and they settled for MAD – Mutual Assured Destruction, which amounted to the relative stabilities of Mutual Assured Deterrence.

Will something like this happen between the US and China?

From the recognition of MAD a degree of Arms Control could reasonably follow – and did: mutually agreed levels of Strategic Arms reduction.

Today things are somewhat different: just what is happening to “high-end forces” deterrence in the age of Cyber-war is hard to discern: are they vulnerable to unsuspectable hacking? Equally what may be the impact of Missile Defences?

Elizabeth Young

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