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July 31, 2008

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A tactical nuclear weapon smuggled into New York seems the most likely scenario.

It depends on the attacker's goal.

If the goal is to kill a lot of insurance salesmen, real estate agents, and telemarketers, and drive a whole lot of americans crazy, then New York City would be a good target.

If the goal is to damage our infrastructure, maybe the nearby oil facilities would be better, the largest oil port in the country. And the largest container ship facility on the east coast (second largest in the nation) is near. Someone who studied our transportation network might decide that either of those is a more important target than NYC, which by some analyses is a net liability for the nation.

It depends on what the attacker wants. An attack that damages us a little and that persuades us to take precautions that would themselves damage us far more, is one plausible goal. An attack that drives us crazy and drives us to retaliate blindly against our usual suspects would be a different plausible goal, perhaps for a different attacker.

At the risk of sounding kooky, I will talk about a dream I once had. It was in the early 1980's, and in my dream I was driving on a road south of Birmingham toward the community of Mountain Brook. A lot of other drivers seemed to go crazy, they were doing weird things, and I pulled off the road. Then a nuke went off in Mountain Brook. I counted the seconds from the flash to the weak groundswell and then the sound, and estimated it at about 200KT, a ground burst or very low. I was wondering how such a thing could possibly happen when I woke up. It was only a dream, but before that I'd been sure that a lot of smart people had devoted their lives to keeping that from happening and I trusted them, and after the dream I had doubts. I thought about the dream, wondering how it could make sense. Mountain Brook was a residential community with nothing very important, nestled behind a low mountain range that would tend to shield Birmingham from the effects of a low nuke. It didn't make sense that anybody would bomb that. The only thing Mountain Brook was known for was for having one of the largest concentrations of multimillionaires in the country.

And then it made a kind of sense. We consistently assumed that the USSR would target our population concentrations to kill as many americans as possible. But they were officially communists. If they really believed that the mass of the US proletariat was enslaved and not responsible, would they slaughter them? Or would they try to kill the capitalists? And I realised that I really didn't know what the russian communists would do. I'd assumed I knew that without a second thought, because I'd never seen anybody doubt it.

Another troubling group of tests involved Shahab-3 launches where the Iranians "detonated the warhead near apogee, not over the target area where the thing would eventually land, but at altitude," Graham said.

An alternative explanation comes to my mind immediately: one might do just the same to avoid a number of troubles related to not reliably hitting a predetermined landing zone. Sending a missile to, say, Russia doesn't sound like a good idea even if it is just an accident.

"No, now you're claiming that Graham is a credible source."

Yeah, he sounds like a real slacker.

'Hersh has reported things that were verified, like Abu Ghraib. But he has also repeatedly predicted that the US military was about to attack iran, and none of those predictions has ever panned out'

While it isn't likely, you have to also consider the paradox of warning in those cases. By warning that an event is about to take place, you encourage action that will prevent the action. I yell to you that a car is about to hit you so you jump out of the way. Now, my prediction was wrong, but had I said nothing it would have been correct. It's more likely that Hersh just occasionally gets fed disinformation or has plain old bad sources, but never discount the paradox.

J, is there any reason to talk to Graham? When we were funding SDI under Reagan, the actual scientists and engineers said it wouldn't work. The money quote I got from Larry ****** at SAIC, "It can't work, but now my retirement is assured." But the top SDI guys said we had to spend the money anyway, that we couldn't prove it wouldn't work.

So later they said even though it wouldn't work, still there was a possibility it would work against an attack from china, who only had 15 missiles and warheads. But pretty soon china had 250 nukes and it wouldn't work against china either.

So now here's the same guy, claiming that one single missile from iran could destroy the nation, and SDI can shoot down that missile. He has a solution that's looking for a problem. He's been lying about it for 20+ years.

Why would you pay attention to him this time around?

If you want information about this potential problem, why get it from somebody who's been lying about it for a long time? "Fool me once...."

I detect a lot of emotional rather than logical responses in this comment thread.

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